When I was growing up, my dad took me to see Chariots of Fire, the Oscar-winning 1981 film about Olympic runner, Eric Liddell. Though I told him I liked it at the time, I had no idea how big an impression it made on me until years later. Now I watch it every year around Father’s Day.
Eric Liddell will always be remembered as the Olympic athlete who refused to run on Sunday. For the Glory, the new biography from Duncan Hamilton, traces the events that led up to Liddell’s world record in the 400-meter race at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Other biographies have been written about him, but For the Glory is the most comprehensive, including the results from just about every race he ever ran. It also evoked a cherished memory for me by referencing Chariots of Fire in several places.
Liddell went on to become a missionary and teacher in China, but his quiet life was interrupted by World War II. As the Japanese invasion approached, Liddell sent his pregnant wife and two daughters to Toronto. He ended up in a P.O.W. camp in Shandong Province, in northern China, where he died shortly before the war ended. He never met his youngest daughter.
In his book Seven Great Men, Eric Metaxas reported that when the Olympics were held in Beijing, the Chinese government revealed that Liddell had been part of a prisoner exchange between Japan and Great Britain but gave up his spot for a pregnant woman. Liddell’s life of self-sacrifice and faith gives me a better understanding of what it means to persevere under difficult circumstances.
Comparisons to Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken are inevitable. Both Liddell and Louis Zamperini were former Olympians who were imprisoned by the Japanese. Both ran a race while they were held captive. And like Unbroken, this book was extensively researched—Duncan Hamilton went to Shandong to see where Liddell lived and worked.
For the Glory will introduce Liddell to a new generation. I would recommend this book for anyone, but especially book clubs, athletes, and those studying missions. (Penguin)
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