Victory is one of my favorite parts about the Olympics. You get to see it every one of these "16 Days of Glory" as medals are won and celebrated. But, there are other deeper victories to be honored too. They are the victories that remind us about the truly important things in life. They remind us of the most important victories.
Having tragedy strike at the Olympics is emotionally wrenching. When I heard that Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili had lost his life in a training accident in Vancouver it broke my heart.
I love the Olympics. I love how people all over the world come together peacefully and compete. That tragedy strikes at these amazing events is a difficult reality to swallow.
I am reminded of the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Just prior to that summer I had done a research paper on past Olympic tragedies and security issues. Mexico City where students died during a public demonstration, and of course the 1972 games in Munich where a massacre of Israeli athletes at the hands of terrorists were particularly painful events. So, these tragedies and the need to avoid such incidents were in my mind watching the Atlanta games.
I recall watching that night in Atlanta shocked to hear about the bombing. I stayed up most of the night wanting to hear any updates. The next day it rained. I watched the heptathlon event with Jackie Joyner Kersee who was in so much obvious pain. I remember thinking that it was so symbolic for how the Olympics felt that day, the heavens cried and the pain was real. Jackie pulled out of the event, at the request of her husband/coach. A few days later she came back and earned what I consider to be one of the greatest bronze medals ever in the long jump. Again it felt symbolic, she was injured but was healing and she had overcome. It felt like the Olympics could heal too, and overcome the tragedy. Sometimes after great tragedies come the greatest triumphs. Victory does not mean ease, in fact it often means there is a struggle prior. But, good can come out of sorrow and pain. In fact Paul in Romans testified to the fact that all things can work together for our good.
As I said the luge accident broke my heart. And still the event seems rather raw and bitterly, somberly painful. The victory that follows such a tragedy might be hard to find right now. Perhaps one can glean some comfort in knowing Nodar Kumaritashvili was fulfilling his dream, he was an Olympian, that victory can never be taken away from him. Perhaps there is a sense of victory in knowing that so many people all across the world united in prayer and well wishing for those affected. It is my dearest wish that his family and other loved ones felt some measure of comfort as a result of those prayers. That certainly would be a victory. I hope they find healing. Healing and victory are often related and exist together. I hope the family heals, I hope his teammates heal.
Is Nodar in a better place? Of course he is, but that knowledge doesn't take away the sting of loss. As I said before victory reminds us of the most important victory. That victory lies in the victory of Christ over physical and spiritual death. This for Nodar and for all of us is the key. So, I say to Nodar rest on my dear young Olympian. Rest on in the victory of The Savior who provides for us all that death cannot last for He overcame it. Knowing you are safely with Him makes your tragedy a little less tragic, though it certainly doesn't mean you won't be missed terribly. Your life leaves a mark on those who knew you personally. But, it also leaves a mark on all of us who watch the Olympics. Because of you we know that dreams can come true. Rest on blessed and safe and free forever more and of course victorious. Rest in peace.