January 25, 2021
By Editorial Team
Eric Liddel wins 400m at Paris Olympics 1924
“For them that honour Me, I will honour” 1 Samuel 2:30
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting/ encouraging one another: and so much more, as you see the day approaching” Hebrews 10:25
“Jesus told Peter, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” Luke 22:32
Eric Liddell was a short distance sprinter, specializing in 100m, 200m. He was a sportsman of many facets – Rugby International for Scotland and a Sprinter for Great Britain. He held many British/Scottish running records, and was known as the Flying Scotsman. The film Chariots of fire, depicting his life, is an immortal classic. Music by Vangelis is a classic too. The film won four Academy Awards (Oscars) including Best Picture and Original Music Score.
Born to Missionary parents in China, he later went to the University of Edinburgh to study pure science. In 1923 while at university, he won the AAA Championships in Athletics in the 100yard race (setting a British record of 9.7 sec that stood for 23 years) and 220-yard race (21.6 sec). For the 1924 Paris Olympics, he was one of the favoured bets for the 100m. When the heats for the 100m were published (months in advance), one of the qualifying heats was on a Sunday. A devout Christian, he felt he should not run on a Sunday. It made headlines and disappointed many in the British Athletics establishment and the public too. Nevertheless, he then took up to run in the 200m and enrolled for the first time in life for the 400m run. He qualified in both categories 200m, 400m for the Olympics.
At Paris, he first won the 200m Bronze in 21.9 sec. Then, he went through the qualifying heats for the 400m with very average times, while his opponents set World Records. It was not his event anyway, but he qualified for the finals. On the day of the final race, one of the British team Masseurs (nowadays called Physiotherapists!) pressed a chit of paper into his hands at the hotel. He said he would read it before the race. In the dressing room, he opened that crumpled note which read, In the Old Book it says, him that honours me, I will honour.
In the draw of lanes, for the 6 finalists, he drew the outside lane, which makes it difficult to judge your opponents, as you are the first to go. Nevertheless, he ran for Jesus and gave it his all, he maintained his lead and at the finish line he won the Gold and set a World Record of 47.6 sec. He finished Paris with a Gold medal, a World Record and a Bronze.
At the height of it all, in 1925 he gave up the limelight and stardom to go back to China as a missionary. Married a Sunday school pianist girl at church, Florence, and had 3 daughters. Eric taught at the Anglo-Chinese College, was also in-charge of the Sunday services in College Chapel. With his broken Chinese he even spoke at a Chinese Congregation. He held regular Bible study with about 50 students attending, many of his students came to the Lord.
As World war II intensified, sensing the danger, he sent out his pregnant wife and children to live in Toronto with family. Finally, when the Japanese invaded China in 1943, he was moved along with other British missionaries into a Prisoner of war camp at Weihsien. Here life was difficult, food supplies and medicines were scarce. He became weak, malnourishment and nervous breakdown and he finally died there. A seed that fell to the ground and died for Christ in China. He bore much fruit, his testimony is still inspiring millions of runners and believers.
Eternity will tell us, if that chit of paper made the difference between Gold or nothing. We all need encouragement in the race of life, the Christian race. Today if the Holy Spirit tells you, will you not press that chit of paper into the hands of a friend or a loved one.
And lastly, if you aren’t exercising, Please do. It is one of the most important ingredients of a life of faith. Maybe an additional flight of stairs, even 10-15 minutes of exercise or stretching is better than nothing at all. Needless to say, Jesus was a very fit guy and exercised regularly.
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast
and when I run, I feel His pleasure” – Eric Liddell (1902-1945)
Look up a Bible
Share with friends