The Olympics hold much in the way of people and teams to admire and Liu Xiang of China is no exception! The fastest man at the Athens Olympics with a record time of 12.91 was ready to qualify for his race yesterday. 4 years ago in his own country of China, Liu went down on a fall and was disqualified. London would usher in his return to the international platform and hopefully crown him with title and medal of world champion once again.
Once the gun fired however, Liu hit the first hurdle and went down with a leg injury. From the picture it is easy to see he was not the only one who went down. I have run hurdles myself in high school and know from first hand, these are not easy to do but these guys are trained professional hurdlers! They have given their entire lives to train for his one event.
Lesson 1: Even professional hurdlers get tripped up!
We can be easily fooled into thinking that through time, training, and discipline that we will never fall, but that is not the case. This picture, story and reality is proof that even the best of us with all of our training, preparations, and aspirations can trip up and fall. This is why it is so important to stay alert, focused, and disciplined because even on your best days, something you deal with all the time can still trip you up!
It just doesn’t seem right that Liu has to be disqualified because he fell. I mean, can’t he have another chance? This was only a “heat”. Let him try again! Give him another chance for goodness sakes! This is what goes through my mind as I see him lying on the ground, legs in the air. But he’s out of the race. Even if he wasn’t hurt, he would still be disqualified for coming out of his lane. It seems cruel and ugly to disqualify someone based on a stumble, for failing to clear the hurdle but that’s how the race works.
In life it can be much the same way. Making decisions, clearing hurdles, it’s all the same. We have to be wise in how we confront issues in front of us. One choice can lead to a downfall and put one out of the race. I cannot thank God enough for the immense amount of grace He has shown to me and all of us as a matter of fact, for the number of times he has picked me back up and let me try again! However, there are some choices, decisions, and sins that can not only disqualify us but destroy us if we are not careful.
Lesson 3: Hurdles can be painful and cause injury
In this case, only Liu was hurt by his miss of the hurdle; but his miss affected his entire country. He was one of China’s Olympic hopefuls. He is the Olympic world record holder from the Athens Olympics. Yet in a moment, all of those dreams, hopes and desires come to a crashing halt.
Liu is seen here dealing with the pain in his leg but I’m sure also the thoughts of letting down his team and country. It’s a very important message to gather that when we go down in life, it doesn’t just affect us. Of course, Liu wasn’t trying to get disqualified or fall. Nor was he purposefully doing anything wrong but that’s my point; he still went down. We cannot underestimate the power, ramifications and consequences of how we face the hurdles in our lives. How we respond, react, and even handle the failure can have epic impact, which is the case here.
Lesson 4: Just because you fall down doesn’t mean you’re out.
Liu stayed on the ground for a few minutes and processed the pain and the race. He understood he was disqualified but also proved his worth in gold was not found in receiving a medal on a podium.
Gathering himself, Liu hopped down the track and made his way to the last hurdle. The race was over, the pain was real, but the man would not be defined by a fall! He would define his own moment. Liu reveals the true spirit of the games in that it’s not just about winning; it’s about finishing! This is an incredible act of athleticism but an even greater act of human spirit! An article I was reading earlier even referred to is as “heroic“. I would have to agree. Anyone else may have simply hobbled off to a cart,to the locker room and cried. Not Liu. Instead he got up, dusted himself off, with hurt leg, hopped to the last hurdle and demonstrated what we all hope we have within us: resilience.
The fact of the matter is that we are all gonna get knocked down sometimes. We are all gonna have to face difficult times. There will even be times when due to poor choices, we will have to decide to run and hide or to get up and keep going. Liu is a great example of someone who made a decision to not let a failure or fall define him. He may have been the fastest hurdler in the Olympics, the world record holder and even the favored to win but he became a hero when he chose to get up and finish.
A few minutes earlier Liu was receiving the sorrow of a nation and international audience who watched him fall. In this moment, he is captivating those same people as he kisses the very thing that stole his opportunity to medal. Maybe Liu understood that it was not the hurdle but himself. The hurdle did not move. he was aware of it and dealt with it everyday. The hurdle was nothing new for him but how he handled this could possibly shape the rest of his entire life.
When difficult things, bad things, unexplainable things happen, we have to make deliberate choices. We have to choose whether we relive those moments or redefine those moments. Liu chose to kiss the very thing that cost him everything. In so doing, Liu conveyed that the hurdle had not won but he had. Anger, resentment, bitterness would not be part of his character. He would not allow the love of his sport, years of his life to be thrown away in future years of regret and bitterness. He redeemed it.
Liu shows us it is possible to take a very difficult thing and even moments later use it to affect people in ways we could never have imagined, His story as a hero will far outlive his story as a gold medalist.
This picture shows Balazs Baji from Hungary holding Liu’s arm up as a “winner”. People I’m sure from around the track and filed community have great respect for Liu because of his accomplishments in the past. However, through his act of finishing the race Liu commanded the respect of the entire world and became a hero to many outside the track and field community. Baji holding holding Liu’s arm signifies that people are not just looking for champions but for heros.
Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin.
George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as youth pastor at New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA