John Akhwari: The Champion Who Finished Last

This blog is about the spiritual lessons we can learn from John Akhwari’s race in 1968 Olympic Game.

John Stephen Akhwari is an Olympic athlete who competed in the 1968 Olympic Game in Latin America. He didn’t win any medal, but his story is among the most inspiring stories ever told in the history of the Olympic game.

John Stephen Akhwari in 1968 Olympic Marathon Race

John Stephen Akhwari in 1968 Olympic Marathon Race

On a hot Sunday afternoon, Akhwari, together with other marathon runners competed for the gold medal. The race was grueling, and because of the scourging heat of the sun, many suffered heat stroke, cramps, and fatigue. One by one, runners fell by the wayside. Out of the 74 participants, 17 didn’t make it to the finish line, and Akhwari could have been the 18th if it wasn’t because of his sheer determination and unrelenting resolve.

During the race, Akhwari suffered a significant fall, sustaining injuries to his knees, shoulder, and head. Akhwari had every reason to give up. More and more spectators were concerned about him and urged him to stop running and immediately seek medical attention.

In all these, Akhwari carried on. He picked himself up, nursed his dislocated knee joint and bandaged his wounds.

It was already dark when Akhwari crossed the finish line. The awarding ceremony was over and only a few hundreds of people left to witness one of the most glorious moments in the Olympics’ history.

Out of the darkness of the Mexican night, Akhwari emerged as a limping man. He might have finished the race last, but he received thundering applause and loud cheers from what was left of the crowd.

When interviewed and asked about his never-say-die attitude, he responded:

“My country did not send me 5,000 miles just to start the race; they sent me to finish the race.”

The story of John Akhwari is such an inspiring story that is still told today. He was even awarded multiple awards and recognitions after the 1968 Olympic Game.

Our Christian life is also likened to a race. The Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and LET US RUN WITH ENDURANCE THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Just like Akhwari, we are called not just to start a race, but also to FINISH the race!

However, our Christian race is different from what Akhwari had. We don’t run for a perishable medal or flattering recognition from other people. We are running to obtain an incorruptible price, and that price is to have eternal life and be part of God’s kingdom.

It is never easy to run the Christian race. Sometimes we fall, injure ourselves, and even be tempted to give up. But in all these trials and difficulties, we need to look to Yahshua, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He too has suffered beyond our wildest imagination, and He can sympathize with our pain and struggles in life. Thus, we can come boldly to the Throne of Grace to obtain our needed help.

So let us run the race. We have come this far, and we should never give up. Surrender is never an option and the only way is to move forward!


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One thought on “John Akhwari: The Champion Who Finished Last

  1. Pingback: The Little-Known But Inspiring Success Story Behind the Honda Corporation | Becoming Christians

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