The Last Shall Be First … Also in the Olympics

by | Aug 29, 2016 | Formation

The Brazil 2016 Olympic Games ended, but some images will remain in our eyes for a long time. We will remember, no doubt, the great victories, the gold, silver or bronze medals achieved by our most admired participants, or the athletes from our countries. But other events will also be engraved in our minds and our hearts.

Undoubtedly, for those like us believers, knowing that faith is something important in the life of the Olympics is an added aspect that motivates and fills us with joy. A small post on Usain Bolt, published in famvin two weeks ago, telling the story of the Miraculous Medal that he always carries on his neck, even during competition, has become one of the most shared on social networks in all history of our website! It has been shared nearly 1,000 times until today, and has tens of thousands of impressions on the website of famvin. The reflection that we could make about this fact may be that believers appreciate the humble testimony of those who, being public figures, are not afraid to show their religious feelings, and integrate them factly in their lives. And, so, we like to share these kind of stories with others.

Is Usain Bolt an exception among Olympics? He is not. There are several who have expressed their religious faith without fear or shame, naturally, during the Olympic Games. Sometimes with small details —like to cross oneself— sometimes during interviews…

A gesture, that will undoubtedly go down in history of these games, was played by two athletes who had not met before: Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) and Abbey D’Agostino (USA).

After colliding with one of her fellow runners during the round of 5,000 meters, D’Agostino could have continued running; but, instead, she looked around and helped Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand to get up and encouraged her to finish the race, saying: “Rise. We have to finish.”

Hamblin and D’Agostino continued the race together, side by side. But D’Agostino was injured more seriously than Hamblin, and had trouble finishing the race. Hamblin wanted to return the favor and was heartening the painful D’Agostino. Despite running with an agonizing pain, D’Agostino finished the race behind Hamblin, and left the place in a wheelchair.

The news around the world, and also social networks, shared this gesture as an example of true Olympic sportsmanship. They arrived last, but certainly won a big medal for their humanity and spirit.

Later, D’Agostino said in an interview:

Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way. (…) This whole time here, He’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance — and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.

Her act of mercy will remain inspiring future events, and may be remembered more than some of the medals won during this Olympics. In this, we also see, as the Gospel says, that “the last will be first” (Mt 20:16), and “whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” (Mk 10:43-44).

This act of kindness of D’Agostino reminds us that winning is not everything. As once said Mother Teresa of Calcutta, God has not called us to be successful. He has called us to be faithful.

And we, followers of the great Vincent de Paul, could wonder, on a personal and community level: How good is our fidelity? Do we seek to succeed, or to be faithful? Do we stay faithful, despite failures? Do we find God in our setbacks?

Javier F. Chento
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Tags: mercy

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