One of my favourite Olympic moments happened in the 2000, Sydney Olympics. Whilst there were many highlights to celebrate as a Australian, one of the most memorable moments didn’t come from an Australian athlete, but a man named Eric, from Equatorial Guinea. Eric Moussambani, otherwise known as Eric the eel.
It was day four of the Olympics. The 100 metres freestyle heat. Eric was in a heat with two other competitors, but as a result of them both illegally jumping the gun, Eric was forced to swim his heat alone. His time, almost two minutes when the time to beat was fifty seconds.
In the words of BBC New reporter, Lynne Truss,
“Eric was no swimmer, you see. He was more of an energetic drowner, who reached and reached, and kicked and kicked, but made no headway. So his race was compelling stuff, especially when viewed from beneath. After 75 metres, fatigue made Eric’s short stroke so frighteningly abbreviated that for a moment he threatened to travel backwards. But just when it looked like a good idea to alert the life guard, he made it. He made it! It was fab.”
The Olympic pool was the first fifty metre pool that Eric had swam in. Up to this point, he had only done laps in a twenty metre hotel pool in his home town. He was clearly out of his depth. He was out of his league, but we admired Eric. He was not paralysed by the moment or level of expertise that was around him, he swam the race that he had committed himself to.
What I love about Eric the Eel is that his journey as a swimmer did not end there. Over the next four years he added to what he had, he grew, and by 2004 he could swim the fifty metres not in 2 minutes, but 57 seconds. He would have competed at the Athens Olympics had it not been for a visa problem
He made every effort. He knew his calling. He knew what had been deposited in him, and he worked and worked and worked.
The Apostle Paul described life with Christ like a race on several occasions, and in Acts 20 he said these words:
“But I consider my life of no value to myself, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus — the ministry of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
Do you know God has a plan and a call for your life? Maybe like Eric you feel out of depth and at times you look more like an energetic drowner then someone who is making any real progress. Will you find the resolve Eric did, to be single minded about the race before you? Will you share the determination of Paul to complete the race set before you, and in your life testify to the good news of God’s grace? Who knows what God could do in and through you if you gave yourself completely to Him?