This time John Landy was running in the final at the 1956 Australian National Championships prior to the Melbourne Olympic Games. Also in the race was Ron Clarke, the young Aussie who would one day hold every world record from two miles to 20 kilometres. Ron Clarke fell after clipping another runner’s heel. Landy, close behind, leaped desperately to clear his body, but his spikes landed on the inside of Clarke’s arm.
As other runners streamed past, Landy pulled up and WENT BACK to check on Clarke and apologise. Clarke assured him the injury wasn’t bad, and with Clarke urging him on, he astonished the 22,000 spectators when he began to chase the field of runners now a long way ahead of him.
There was about a lap and a half to go to the finish. On the last lap he was really hurting, but amazingly, HE WON THE RACE. His time was 4 minutes 2 seconds. His act of chivalry had cost him an estimated SEVEN SECONDS and there is little doubt he would have easily beaten the world record.
John Landy won the championship ~ and so much more!
His example of pure sportsmanship is a legend.
One journalist recorded:
“Yours was a classic sporting gesture.
It was a senseless piece of chivalry but it will be remembered
as one of the finest actions in the history of sport.
In a nutshell, you sacrificed your chance of a world record
to go to the aid of a fallen rival
and you achieved much more than any world record”
The bronze statue entitled ‘Sportsmanship‘ celebrates the moment when Landy helps Clarke to his feet. It was created by Mitch Mitchell and is situated on the lawns adjacent to Olympic Park in Melbourne.
As a Christian this account of John Landy challenges me.
I am in a race – the race that is set from the cross to glory [Hebrews 12:1-4]
I am instructed to maintain my focus ~ “looking unto Jesus”
I am also instructed that I am an ambassador, given the ministry of reconciliation, and that I am responsible for others. I have a duty of care towards them.
I am to love them wholeheartedly, with the love of Christ.
I am not to think of myself, but to put the needs of others first.
How many “Ron Clarkes” are there in my life?
That is, how many are in need of help but I (like the other runners) pass by?
How often do I think only of myself and my desires?
How often am I a “John Landy”?
That is, how often do I forget about self and my desires and reach out to help someone else?
How often do I suffer a setback and get up to continue – or do I wallow in self pity and/or defeat?
Take me and all I have, dear Lord,
And get me so close to Thee
That I feel the throb
of the deep heart of God
Until I burn out for Thee.