Usain Bolt: Pride of Jamaica

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A hero is someone who helps without expecting anything in return. Their gesture may be big or small; but profound or not, it doesn’t make him any less of a hero. Does this define Usain Bolt? In the minds and hearts of boys and girls and men and women the world over, Usain’s winning and bolting and dapping may not match the traditional meaning of the term, but its close enough.

Usain Bolt just won the men’s 100 m dash for the third straight Olympics. He defeated his arch-rival Justin Gatlin and the rest of the field to win gold in “just” 9.80 seconds. And his dominance in the sport spans past the Olympics, as he set a new World Record of 9.58 in 2009.

Usain has bolted to super stardom as he has led his tiny island nation of Jamaica to world track and field dominance. So he’s more than a hero; he’s conquered oh, so many hearts and he is the shining star of a nation.

Usain has unusual height for a sprinter and unmatched stamina parallel to none. His speed and his strength have earned him the title “World’s Fastest Man” for almost a decade. And his charisma and charm and magnetism and near hypnotism all combine for a compelling story that is worth telling time and again.

Moral Victories

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Some say that there are no moral victories. Not so. 

“Cool Runnings” is the 1993 film based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team trying to make it and win a medal in the Winter Olympics. Their final run starts off with an even better formation than they previously had, but the ancient, antiquated sled they use is unknowingly in poor shape. A bad bounce sends it careening out of control, eventually turning over and sending the team on a terrible out-of-control trajectory.

When the sled finally skids to a stop, several tense seconds pass before the team even moves. Finally, Derice regains consciousness and sees the finish line mere feet away. Paramedics rush down to tend to the Jamaicans, only to part as they rise to their feet. The guys hoist the sled over their shoulders and begin walking toward the finish line, determined to finish the race no matter what.

The crowd, awestruck by the Jamaicans’ performance, cheers them on as they finish. Everyone, even Mr. Bevil (now wearing a Jamaican souvenir shirt) shows their admiration: Even though their chances of winning are gone, Jamaica finishes with dignity and pride.

Some say that there are no moral victories.  Not so.  The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning;they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—  the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.  These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,  since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (11:35-40)

Some say that there are no moral victories. Not so.  Some victories are won because you didn’t retaliate; you didn’t fight back; you didn’t dignify the insult with a response. You held your peace and let the Lord fight your battle.  That first Olympic Jamaican bobsled team crashed in front of the world, most of whom didn’t even give them a chance. Yet they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and  carried their broken bobsled  and their bruised egos across the finish line, because they were determined to finish the race, no matter what.

Some say there are no moral victories. Not so.  Some victories are won by going the extra mile and by turning the other cheek.  Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels to fight for him in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Yet he knew that he had the cross of Calvary yet to bear.  Some victories are won because you humbled yourself under the mighty hand of God. And because of that, in due time, he will exalt you.

Silencing the Critics

olympic_champion_usain_bolts_running_spikes_auctioned_for_39000_8yb1lThe fastest man in the world is Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who literally and figuratively “bolted” out of nowhere to win the gold medal in the 100 and 200 meter dashes at  the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.  

Usain Bolt ran the 100m dash in 9.69 seconds as he set a new WR. He had less than a great start, and “showboated” as he crossed the finish line; yet and still he won “gong away.” He pulled away from the field at 80 meters and could have had a faster time if he had retained his near perfect form through the tape. Usain won the 200 by running 19.31, and won by an incredibly large margin as he again pulled away from the pack, and showed his critics that he was in fact for real.

To further silence the critics, Bolt also broke his Olympic record In Berlin a year later when he ran against his closest competitor, Tyson Gay, who challenged Usain in the 100m and took second.  He also broke the 200m record by running a 19.19 the IAAF World Championship Track and Field in Berlin, Germany. In stead of responding to his critics, he did his talking in the race. Likewise, we need to remember that “the Lord shall fight for us, if we hold our peace.”

We all have critics, and Usain’s critics gave him a hard time for being so brassy as he crossed the finish  in the 100m finish line in 2008.  Uphazed, Bolt took this criticism to heart.  In his book, Reversed Thunder, Eugene Peterson wrote, “The devil is but God’s master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.”  Our critics are actually doing us a favor: they bring out the best in us. 

Our critics/enemies don’t want us to succeed, they don’t want us to win, and they don’t want us to triumph. All the while they may use “trash talk” to discourage us in the process. But no worries –Jesus came to silence our critics.  When the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery to Jesus, they rebuked her and challenged Jesus to “do something about” the crime this woman had committed. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  John 8:4-11, New Living Translation

Our enemies will leave us alone, because Jesus came to negate the naysayers.  Jesus came to oppose our oppressors. Jesus came to denounce the detractors.  Jesus came to silence the critics.