Every four years I lose sleep. The Olympics; the trials, the efforts, the energies of the athletes fascinate me. Each Olympiad, there are new heroes, people who rise to the occasion both in winning and in losing.
At the end of the first week of the 27th Olympiad in 2000, I was losing sleep as usual when I was privileged to see a remarkable story begin to unfold.
A 22-year-old woman from Texas, Laura Wilkinson, was competing for the U.S.A. in platform diving. She was in 8th place with the heavily favored Chinese women already in the top two spots.
I was drawn to something she did before every one of her five dives.
Family, friends and others in the crowd would start cheering loudly as she reached the platform. Each time, she would look in their direction and give them such a peaceful and precious smile that it was beyond description.
At first I couldn’t imagine anyone doing that before diving. All the other women were focused, somber, all business before their dives, but Laura smiled, everytime connecting with those who loved her and were encouraging her.
Each dive seemed to be better than the one before while those of her opponents faltered. Slowly she climbed in the rankings: 5th, 4th, and finally 1st! Each time she stopped and smiled and each time the dive excelled in the judges’ eyes.
What made the whole event even more awe-inspiring was that last March, Laura had broken three bones in her right foot and they hadn’t healed. She was facing more surgery once the competition was over. For three months she could not dive, but during all that time, she said she kept running each dive over and over in her mind, perfecting her take off, her twists, summersaults and entries. When the U.S. trials came, she won a spot on the team, fighting through the pain that would still be with her in Sydney.
After she won the gold Sunday, an interviewer asked her, “What were you thinking all that time you were trying to catch the leaders?” Laura’s reply? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
The interviewer, a bit taken aback, then asked, “What were you doing when you would stop and acknowledge the crowd before each dive?” She said something to the effect that it had been so hard for her to get here that she didn’t want to miss a minute of the experience. Spiritually, the Lord seemed to reveal to me that what she had done before each effort, was to allow herself to soak up the love and encouragement of Jesus being poured out through those in the crowd.
Laura Wilkinson won the gold medal, but her most shining moments came each time she smiled; receiving from others, then reflecting to others, the Love of Christ. Click on this link to see her remarkable comeback to win Olympic Gold: http://www.laurawilkinson.com/videos.htm