As we worked on this issue in late August, many of us spent our evenings watching the Summer Olympics. We had a special interest at Baylor, as two of our own were participating.
On Aug. 23, we saw junior Jeremy Wariner run his personal best of 44.00 seconds in the 400-meter race, the third straight time a Baylor track athlete has taken home gold in this Olympic event. Wariner's time eclipsed the Baylor record of 44.21 set by two-time Olympic champion Michael Johnson. A few days later, senior Darold Williamson ran with Wariner, anchoring the men's 4x400, and the U.S. Team took the gold in that event (see Proving their 'Medal'
These three young men truly are world-class athletes.
It made me think of another world-class athlete of 60 years ago who also ran the 400-meter, although he hadn't trained for that event. Eric Liddell, known as "The Flying Scotsman," was set to run the 100-meter at the Paris Olympics in 1924, but when he found out the heats were scheduled on a Sunday, he withdrew. He considered the Sabbath sacred and would not violate it. A few days later, he ran the 400, setting a world record of 47.6 seconds. His story later was immortalized in the movie "Chariots of Fire." Liddell died in a Japanese internment camp in 1945 after serving as a Christian missionary in China for 18 years.
After his Olympic experience, Liddell said: "Sport is wonderful. The most wonderful part of it is not the almost superhuman achievements but the spirit in which it is done. Take away that spirit and it is dead. The Holy Spirit is to the Christian life what sportsmanship is to sport and more. Without Him in our lives, even at the best we are ... dead perfection and no more."
"Dead perfection." It is a chilling phrase, reminding us that excellence, in and of itself, never should be our standard.
Likewise, "world-class" is a term that gets applied freely to many things -- athletes, scholars, even visions. But if we are true to our first love, all we strive to do will far exceed any known boundary.