In your lifetime, you will see lots of winners-only a few can be called Champions. On or off the field, whether winning or losing-Champions are those winners who are unforgettable.
Joy. Valiance. Poise. Passion. Determination. Courage.
Those are my favorite words to describe a Champion-Yes, competitive, strength and skill are also part of a champion’s tool kit. Barbaros and Eric Liddell were in the winner’s circle. Off the field- they lived their lives with joy, poise, passion, courage and determination- they were Champions!
Barbaros’ trainer, Michael Matz competed in the Olympics in 1976 and 1992 then in 1996 Matz helped his equestrian teammates win the Silver Medal. In 2006, Matz said he knew Barbaros was special-the horse joyously won the Kentucky Derby- then was frolicking in the grass with joy the next Monday when no one was watching! Barbaros’ veterinarian surgeon, Dr.Dean Richardson, wanted to be an actor before he found his passion for horses. A horse named Barbaros put Dean Richardson in front of the cameras! In press conferences-the veterinarian said he was amazed at Barbaros’ courage and poise, for 8 long months. Champions have an indefinable star quality – you may see lots of winners, you’ll never forget champions!
‘In the dust of defeat as well as the laurels of victory there is a glory to be found if one has done his best.’ 1924 Gold Medal winner-and Scottish Missionary to China -Eric Liddell
Unforgettable- that’s what a Champion is. Soon after Liddell arrived in Paris to compete- he preached a sermon, from Isaiah 40: 26,29-31- those famous words ‘They shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not grow tired.’ Harold Abraham, Liddell’s fellow countryman, the privileged son of a wealthy Polish immigrant, financier Isaac Abraham, was Jewish. Harold was a winning sprinter and long jumper from youth through his years studying law at Cambridge . He continued to be a runner- but was upbraided for hiring a coach; it was considered ungentlemanly for an amateur to hire a professional coach. The two men won races in Great Britain before competing in the 1924 Olympics. Abraham won the Silver Medal in the 100 meter and Liddell won the Gold in the 400 meter. Liddell went to China to do his life’s work as a missionary. Abraham continued to compete and in 1925, he broke his leg ending his career in competitive sports- ironically, his brother Sir Adolphe Abrahams was the founder of British Sports Medicine. Harold Abraham became a sports journalist and commentator for 40 years.
Eric Liddell was sent to a Japanese prison camp called Wiehsein Interment Camp in Shantung Provence, China-after Pearl Harbor. Norman Cliff recalls when he arrived as a POW, there was a Scotsman who had won a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics. The man was Eric Liddell- tall, tanned and very thin and always smiling. Liddell had permission to teach the young boys science and physical education. His wife and children had been sent to Canada in 1941, he was captured in 1943. Eric deeply missed his own children; teaching children in the camp helped him endure captivity. In 1945, a mere five months before the war ended…Norman Cliff, received word that Eric Liddell wanted Cliff to play ‘Finlandia’, the song of peace– the melody is also the hymn, ‘Be Still My Soul’.
‘Be still my soul, The Lord is on thy side…leave to Thy God to order and provide…Be still, my soul- thy best, thy Heavenly Friend…Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.’
Less than a week later, Eric Liddell died. The British and American armies liberated the Weihsein Interment Camp on August 17, 1945. Eric Liddell was born in China, joyfully ran the race life set before him, then was buried in China. Eric Liddell was a Champion.
British screenwriter Colin Welland, immortalized Eric Liddell and his teammate Harold Abraham, in his 1981 Oscar winning film- Chariots of Fire. The success of the film was as unlikely as the pairing of Olympic medal winners- a wealthy Jew, who ran to be visible to Anglo Saxon society and an Anglo Saxon preacher who ran to honor God. Welland wanted to be an actor, his father insisted that he become a teacher, he was a professor of Art. The screenplay, a historic drama- must have had the qualities of a Champion– for Hollywood to produce it. Welland chose the name- Chariots of Fire, while listening to Britain’s stirring hymn, Jerusalem– from the chorus refrain- ‘Bring me my Chariot of Fire’…
Winning 4 Academy Awards- including Best Screenplay and Best Original Score. The famous Greek composer, Vangelis wrote the well known soundtrack. Composing since the age of 4, Vangelis is not a trained musician- he is self taught and cannot read or write musical notation! Vangelis plays almost exclusively on electronic instruments. He says: ‘…I think that technology and music have always been together…music is science.’ Vangelis is a Champion.
Tommy Emmanuel is known as ‘the world’s greatest living acoustic guitarist’…the defining quality I found in him is JOY. He plays with joyful abandon- would do it if no one was listening or watching! At CAAS in Nashville recently, he circled up with a small group of amateurs with the same enthusiasm as onstage. The international tour schedule for the 61 year old Australian guitarist reveals his stamina. He will perform at the Lyric Theater in Birmingham Alabama! His music is indefinable- he played with Eric Clapton, Tina Turner and Chet Atkins! Tommy Emmanuel said the greatest moment of his career was playing with his brother Phil at the Sydney Closing Ceremony of the 2000 Olympics! It seemed only fitting to close my treatise to Champions for you to hear-Tommy Emmanuel play Chariots of Fire with Japanese rock star Kyoji Yamamoto electronically as Vangelis prefers- the video is not good, but close your eyes…and listen.
Love y’all, Camellia