Athlete was inspiration to hold on to faith

By Judy Brandon: CNJ correspondent

Sporting events are really in the news this summer. Lance Armstrong just won his sixth Tour de France. Within two weeks, the summer Olympics will begin in Athens. Preparations have been under way for several years to accommodate the great influx of athletes, media and spectators at that event. There will be 28 sports at 35 venues over a span of 16 days.

Already the Olympic torch has made its way through a string of countries preparing for the opening ceremonies. The games will be televised so people from all around the globe can follow athletes from dozens of countries.

Along with the Olympics come sayings about striving for one’s personal best. Each year, some of those sayings surface as the games begin.

An example of one of those aphorisms was “Go for the Gold,” a popular expression that surfaced a number of years ago during the Olympic competitions. It was a theme with which people in the United States could identify since Americans were cheering for athletes from their own country.

It was about the time I was in the sixth grade when I heard my parents talking about the 1960 Olympic games. Then they were not televised like they are today so Americans depended on magazine and newspaper interviews to keep up with their favorite athletes.

At that time, Wilma Rudolph was a rising star. Rudolph, a little known young black athlete, would make her debut during those Olympics. Born in Clarksville, Tenn., she graduated from Tennessee State University where she was a participant in the women’s track and field program. In the Olympics that year, Wilma Rudolph successfully went for the gold because she won three gold medals. Then in 1961, she set the women’s world record for the 100-meter dash. This small town girl became famous literally over night.

Sometime after Wilma won the gold medal, a magazine published an interview with her. In the article, the fastest woman in the world at that time stated what her perspective on life really was.

Rudolph used the second verse of the hymn, “Take My Life and Let It Be,” by Frances Havergal, to illustrate the source of her happiness in life and her faith in God. She quoted the second verse of the hymn as her theme: “Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee.” Then she explained her faith in God as a small child and how she had experienced that faith in many competitive situations. She committed her talent to God.

What an impression that made on me as my Mother told me about the interview with Wilma Rudolph. She was the best in the world in those track events but she viewed her extraordinary talent as a way to express her faith.

Isaiah wrote, “ How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring the happy news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)

Just the story of Wilma Rudolph taught me at an impressionable age what it means to hold fast to one’s faith. She was humble but determined. She held fast to what she believed, promoted good in her own life and consistently in the lives of countless others.

No matter where we go in life or to what heights we may attain, it is enduring the race all the while living our faith that counts.

Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: cbrandon@plateautel.net