The Protagonist

Two weeks have passed since the Olympic trials, when I raced to a spot on Canada’s Olympic team. I am going to be a 2x Olympian! 

Over the past few weeks, countries around the world held their Olympic team selection trials and/or published their team rosters, and for every happy athlete celebrating an Olympic berth, there are so many more who have been at the least - disappointed, and at worst - utterly brokenhearted. My Olympic trials were a success, but I shed more than a few tears over the weekend for some of those who came up short. There are many reasons - injuries, illness, an unfortunate trip or fall during the race, nervousness, tactical errors, and great performances that aren’t quite enough. Some athletes are even left off the Olympic team having met all the selection requirements, but yet are still not considered competitive enough by a selection committee.

As a veteran in this sport, I’ve met a lot of runners on the circuit over the years. These aren’t just stories and examples to me - they are real people. They are personal friends. Their dedication, their grind, their commitment is no less than my own. Their hopes and dreams may be even greater than mine. 

There are some myths that catch us all off guard at one point or another, especially in sports:

You’ve just got to “want it” more badly than your competitors.
Persistence always pays off - your time will come.
Achieving that prize makes all the work worth it.

These ideas sound great, but they prove true only in some cases and for some people, and only some of the time. The crucible that is the Olympic trials expose these ideas as lies.

The truth is that we all want to succeed - at this level we all want to become Olympians and work tirelessly and sacrificially toward that goal. Although we Olympians are celebrated by our respective countries and portrayed as successful, inspirational, and even heroic, the truth is that we are not more deserving than those who will never be Olympians. The truth is that too many factors in the Olympic pursuit are beyond our control that we could ever rightfully accept credit. 

Sprinting for the finish at the Canadian Olympic Trials. photo credit: Claus Andersen, for Athletics Canada

Sprinting for the finish at the Canadian Olympic Trials. photo credit: Claus Andersen, for Athletics Canada

There is One who separates the Olympian from the Aspiring Olympian, and even though I know Him, I do not know why He has chosen me. God has granted me the honour of representing Canada at the Olympics not once, but twice. And when I wonder about my friends - equally deserving as I, likely even more hopeful and determined, I don’t think I will ever understand. Then I remember a conversation with one of my young training partners, she said we often forget that we aren’t the center of our own lives. God is the protagonist.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said "I believe that nothing that happens to me is meaningless, and that it is good for us all that it shoud be so, even if it runs counter to our own wishes. As I see it, I'm here for some purpose, and I only hope I may fulfil it. In the light of the great purpose all our privations and disappointments are trivial.”

Of course, my current situation - preparing for the Olympics - is one that I really did wish for and is something to celebrate, but I am familiar with disappointment too (not to the extent that Bonhoeffer was!) and I am not immune to future hardship. This attitude holds true in all of life’s circumstances. 

While I have worked hard to improve myself in every way, and have not been lacking in discipline or effort toward my Olympic bid, it is only for some reason in His great purpose that I will be on the start line in Rio. Wearing the Canadian flag as an Olympian is truly an honour that I am thrilled and grateful to accept from the Lord. On August 12, when I walk out into the Olympic stadium, I will remember that God Himself has decided to put me there for a purpose, and I only hope to fulfill it. 

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
— Proverbs 19:21