Monday, February 26, 2007

Greatest Sporting Moment #2 (Eric Liddell)

I wasn’t alive when this happened as it was in 1924 but it is still such an inspiring story that was retold by the very 1980’s film Chariots Of Fire – with some artistic re-writing.

Eric Liddell was the son of Scottish missionaries and spend his first 5 years in China before going to school in England. He was a sporting all rounder and played rugby for Scotland. His speed earned him the nickname “The Flying Scotsman” and he was one of Britain’s best hopes for an Olympic 100 metre gold at the 1924 Paris Olympics. He was also renown for his unconventional running style of sticking his head back and waving his arms.

His determination to put God first meant he was not prepared to compete on a Sunday and so pulled out of that event deciding instead to compete in the 440 yards (400m) – an event he was far less familiar with.

The standard was high and in the first semi-final the world record was broken by one of Liddell’s opponents, then in the second semi, the record was broken again. Liddell had the outside lane for the final and just ran flat out from the gun – in his own fantastic words, “I run the first 200 metres as hard as I can. Then, for the second 200 metres, with God's help, I run faster”.

The other competitors were so blown away by his pace, in trying to catch him 2 of them just collapsed before reaching the finish. He set another world record of 47.6 seconds in taking the gold medal.

He gave up competitive running to become a missionary in China where he worked up to and during the Japanese and Chinese war where he tirelessly served in a medical centre putting his life at risk on numerous occasions. He died in an internment camp at the age of 43.

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