The life of the deeply Christian Olympic champion runner who forsook the glory for missionary work in China. The story was the basis for the award-winning film Chariots of Fire.
British sportswriter Hamilton (Touch Wood: The Autobiography of the 1953 Le Mans Winner, 2014, etc.) re-creates the life of Eric Liddell (1902-1944), the Scottish son of missionaries who sensationally won the gold medal in the 400-meter race at the Summer Olympics in Paris in 1924 before becoming a missionary in China like his father. Liddell was an unlikely sports hero, not physically prepossessing but absolutely determined, and he gained inspiration from German Max Sick’s How to Become a Great Athlete while a student at the University of Edinburgh. At the same time, he became a committed member and minister for the Union Church. Discovered by impresario-coach Tom McKerchar, Liddell soon smartened up as an athlete, winning numerous championship races with his unique head-thrown-back style. The 400-meter race was not his specialty, and he was not a favorite of the British Olympic Association, which “didn’t consider a Scot…as an important figure.” Yet when the Olympic schedule was organized, Liddell refused to race his specialty 100 meters because it was scheduled on a Sunday. Considered a traitor to his country by some, he was soon celebrated as a national hero once he won the 400. In his often poignant but also sometimes overly sentimental narrative, Hamilton emphasizes that this was only the beginning of the Liddell legend, as he sought a higher calling as a missionary, moving to the land of his birth, Tientsin, China, to teach science and sports at the Anglo-Chinese College. With the Japanese invasion, however, the expatriate community became vulnerable to attack and then imprisonment in concentration camps like Weihsien, where Liddell spent 694 days practicing his faith and helping other inmates before dying tragically of an undiagnosed brain tumor.
A moving hagiography that will appeal to fans of Chariots of Fire as well as Unbroken and similar books.