Two Olympic Moments 2021
Each Olympics there is always a special moment that captures your heart and the spirit of the Olympics. This Olympics, like the last two years, was like no other. They were first delayed and then played without crowds surrounded by an explosion of pandemic cases in the city and country around them but somehow they went on despite the protests of many and boy am I glad they did. Two events stick out for me. The first involved two high-jumpers Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar who flawlessly jumped the high jump at 7 feet, 9 1/4 inches. But neither of them could clear the bar at a higher level after the three attempts given in their competition.
According to the rules, they could either continue to compete with a jump-off until one man finally triumphed over the other. Or, they could share the gold. "Can we have two golds?" Barshim asks the official.
Before the official could even finish his response, Barshim reaches out to Tamberi, and they shake hands. Then they hug. Then they run around the field celebrating. The crowd went wild.
These moments matter. These are the moments that remind us of the goodness in the human heart. Collaboration has just as much a place in this world as competition. Both are needed. Competition heightens our skills and teaches us bravery and perseverance. Collaboration joins us at the heart, teaching us generosity and gratitude.
It turns out that these men were friends before they stepped onto the field that day. They had competed before and had helped one another on and off the field. Sharing the gold medal was a beautiful way to extend that friendship. It was also a beautiful way to remind the rest of us that Love wins.
Then there is the Simone Biles story out of the Olympics. I confess I didn't know what to think or feel when she withdrew from the Team competition but as the story unfolded over the next few days I discovered things about gymnastics that I never heard of before. "The Twisties" are something many athletes experience but until this GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) athlete shared its real-time effects with us we knew nothing about it. She spoke honestly and transparently about the pressure of competing and of course the Trolls came out and had their criticisms but most people were supportive of her decision.
What struck me was the rationale for her decision to withdraw. "I am not going to lose a medal for this country and these girls because they've worked way too hard to have go out there and lose a medal." Imagine stepping aside for the team. Who does that at this level where gold medals, reputations, and endorsements are at stake? The result was a silver team medal. Then she withdraws from her all-around competition opening up a space for another American to medal in her place. Then she withdraws from the individual competitions and another American picks up the medal we all expected her to win. This was suppose to be her Olympics where she wins more medals then any other women gymnast but it was not to be. Instead she watched in the stands cheering on her teammates.
She chose to compete in the last event…balance beam because no other American qualified to take her place if she withdrew from that. She had spent days with psychologist and coaches to in her words "get her head in a good place." She eliminated some of the more difficult parts of her routine which would have her twisting in air. She said, "I was just happy to be able to perform regardless of the outcome." Balance Beam is her weakest event but the outcome was a Bronze medal tying her for a record tying seventh Olympic medal. Her teammates and the few allowed to
attend the event cheered her when she was introduced and when she stuck her landing at the end of the routine.
Love for her teammates and country had guided her decisions to compete or not compete and in the end love wins again. It wasn't the Olympics any of us imagined but it sure was the one I needed to see. Ephesians 5:2 says, "Walk in love…." The Olympics just gave us a couple of living examples of how to do precisely that.