I hope you’ve had a lovely week. It was a gorgeous one here in Tennessee, with lots of blue skies.
It’s been fun to watch some Olympic Trials too. The athletes that make the team headed for Tokyo immediately sign their name on a Japanese drum. What an honor! And in swimming, since it’s 100% objective, no one signs that drum without years and years of hard work and dedication.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the hardworking Kayla Han makes the team in three years. It’s rather confusing how it works this year, so I’ve explained it in the P.S. below. But at Wave I of Olympic Trials, I screamed my head off for Kayla. Like my son, she had qualified for the Trials just a couple weeks before. In the morning, she swam fast enough to make the B final in the 400 Individual Medley, which is just a brutal race. The swimmers dive in and swim two 50 meter laps of butterfly, then backstroke, then breaststroke. They finish with freestyle. Kayla was trailing until the last 50 meters. At the last minute, she turned on the jets, caught the leaders and then touched the wall first. I was going ballistic! I went back and watched her televised race a few nights ago and was a little surprised that my incessant screaming could not be heard. I imagine someone somewhere has video of the tall woman losing her mind, and her voice.
Before that morning I’d never heard of Kayla, but you might have joined me in madly cheering for her if you knew two things. First, every swimmer at Trials wears a pricey, high tech racing suit – every swimmer except Kayla.
The other tidbit that might make you love Kayla? She is only thirteen years old, and the youngest swimmer at Trials. In fact, when she got her Olympic Trials cut she was still twelve. She’d only been thirteen for a few days. The bright lights. The pressure. The pomp and circumstance. The universal use of top-of-the-line racing suits. None of this could intimidate her. She rocked it. I hope she goes to Paris in 2024 because she’s already one of my favorites.
America breeds dreamers with perseverance. Most Americans are reluctant to tell someone “You can’t do that!” There are notable exceptions of course, but the majority of us like to encourage audacious goals. We might caution, “That would require a lot of work.” But the American spirit is one that fights, one that sacrifices, one that sees the obstacles and still turns on the jets. And Americans, like all of humanity, absolutely love an underdog.
Why do we? Have you taken a few minutes to think about why we love underdogs? I know why. It’s because the story that most defines us and most liberates us is the ultimate underdog story. Our Savior was born in a stable. He wasn’t privileged. His family fled murderous persecution. He wasn’t remarkably handsome. Most of His life was quiet. He didn’t travel hardly at all. He worked construction. But He won the biggest victory of all. He beat death. He beat it for you. He beat it for me. He beat death for the whole world.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
I hope you believe in the ultimate underdog. He is the way, the truth and the life, today and forever.
P.S. To make the U.S. Olympic Team for swimming you must race in and win at the Trials. You can also make the team by placing second. For relays they take as many as six swimmers. But the maximum number of swimmers is 26 men and 26 women, and theoretically you could have less if our fastest swimmers didn’t achieve an Olympic cut. This never happens in the U.S. because we have the world’s fastest swimmers.
This year the trials-qualifying swimmers were broken up into two groups, or “waves.” Wave II which is going on now, is where the winner of the final for each event makes the team and signs the drum. Kayla and Will swam at Wave I and could’ve only moved on to Wave II by getting first or second in the A final. Will got 5th. Kayla won the B Final. But I’m liking their chances in 2024.