LIFE is a race. We all race against Father Time, the great overtaker. In the power and glory of our youth, we outrace Father Time. But eventually, Father Time catches up on us. The greatest sprinter God ever produced Usain Bolt finally got caught up in the race against time.
Somehow, his body had been telling him: “Old age is creeping in. It’s time to quit. It’s better to quit when the ovation is at its highest.” He didn’t listen on time. He believed he could mesmerise us with his athleticism one more time. He wanted to leave the stage in a blaze of glory. He wanted to explode with a big bang, with the last triumphant race, the last hurrah. Will you blame him?
We had all gathered to witness the bolting out of the king who had dazzled us Olympics after Olympics. This legendary runner who had wings under his feet. The runner whose victories we took for granted. For many years, he had been our god of victory with an invisible bow and arrow shooting down every imaginary opposition standing in his way as we cheered him on. Oh, he was the quintessential showman who pleased everyone, old and young, male and female. He was the friend of all, signing autographs non-stop. He was even the friend of the mascots on the field who all knew him, loved to play with him and brought him good luck. Oh, he was such jolly good fellow!
But then, everything must end. Nothing stands the same. At the starting block where he knelt with the others, looking up to heaven and praying, I was praying with him. I was praying that God will again give our Samson victory this very last time. That God will help him to finish well. But God had other ideas. The gunman raises his starter pistol aloft. On your marks. Get set. And the gun blasts!
The contestants all pop out like bullets, except our man Usain Bolt. He has always been known for this weakness. For many it is far easier to start than end. For Bolt, his problem is starting well. Because of his Goliathan height, it takes some effort to get out of the block but by the time he gets his rhythm, he always catches them, like a lion after a deer. He was the lion king that always feasted on slower runners. In this last race, we believed as we have always believed that in the end, he would catch up. But unfortunately, Bolt’s magic failed him. And the celebrated winner became the loser in third place.
And who defeated him? Justin Gatlin of all people. The public enemy. The man the crowd had been booing for twice being a drug cheat. The crowd was unforgiving. They wanted him crucified. The crown of glory was meant for Usain Bolt. Not a repentant drug cheat. It was a night of anticlimax! But still a night of redemption for Justin who paid homage to King Usain after the race.
Beloved, it is a sad thing to end a loser. As you read this, I pray that you will finish well. You will not end on a losing note. Your life will not be an anticlimax. Your today will be better than your yesterday. Your tomorrow will even be brighter. Your best is yet to come. Even in old age, you will excel. Let us pray:
We bless you O God, the author and the finisher of our faith. You are the victorious One, the God who is victor, who gives victory and through whom we have victories. The God in Judah who broke all the arrows and the weapons of the enemy. The God who humbles proud princes and terrifies great kings. The God who shielded us from the bows and arrows, the guns and the bombs of the enemies of this great country. The enemies that abound everywhere, who even appear in churches there to shoot and kill people praying as we saw in Anambra. No place is too sacred for them to shed innocent blood. To be alive today and every other day is victory. To be healthy is to be victorious. We pray for our President to come out of all this with a clean bill of health, because the enemy doesn’t want him back from this hell. The enemy is even praying that he dies, so that the devil will be glorified, but our God of victory is on the throne. Our father, grandfather and leader Buhari will not die yet. He will not be overtaken by the forces running against him. He will finish well. And very well too.
And thank you Jehovah for giving us Usain Bolt. He may have lost this one race but even in defeat, he is a winner, a conqueror. We bless you Mighty One, you whose timeless and prophetic words say: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither is bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, but time and chance overtake them all.”
Through your son Usain’s defeat, we have learnt the great lesson that no man is unbeatable except you our God. Every man born of woman can be beaten one way or another, at one point, at one time. The man who claims he is invincible is claiming to be God or next to God. May you continue to remain omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omni-everything. May all the glory go to you and you alone. Amen.
It is sad watching a great champion lose to a younger one. We saw it in 1980 when Muhammad Ali, “The Greatest” tried to cheat Father Time by fighting his mentee Larry Holmes who knocked him out in Round 11. Like Usain Bolt, the fight was billed “The Last Hurrah.” And like Bolt, Ali lost. This was how Michael Katz captured it for the New York Times: “There were no more miracles tonight for Muhammad Ali. At the age of 38 and after a two-year retirement, his attempt to win a fourth world heavyweight boxing champion ended with his sitting tired and battered on a stool, unable to answer the bell for the 11th round in his scheduled 15-round contest with Larry Holmes, his former sparring partner.”
Even in defeat, Usain Bolt acted like a true sportsman, saluting everyone, mingling with the crowd, taking pictures and signing autographs from the standpoint of a man who is forever a champion in our hearts. He reminds me of the words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” which goes: If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two impostors just the same.
Usain Bolt is a great man of our time, a winner. Not an impostor. Not a cheat. He is a victorious champion who was finally overtaken by Father Time. But his unbeatable record and legacy stand on the sands of time and history along with Jesse Owens and other legendary runners.
Last words: Let’s make hay while the sun shines, because time overtakes and waits for no man