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Sports Spectrum Daily Devotional: Friday, December 4

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” — Colossians 3:17

The Importance of Integrity

On Dec. 22, 2019, a special ceremony was held at the annual Team USA awards. As world-class athletes were recognized for historic and meaningful accomplishments over the course of the year, the last half of the evening was dedicated to recognizing an achievement well-deserved but long overdue.

In 2014 at the Sochi Winter Olympics, the U.S. men’s bobsled team had come into the games as heavy contenders to repeat as champions in the four-man competition and potentially break a medal drought in the two-man as well. Veteran driver Steve Holcomb would pilot both sleds.

In the final run of the four-man competition, the U.S. was slightly edged out by Russia and Latvia, giving the U.S. a bronze medal. In the two-man race, Russia and Switzerland edged the U.S., which was given a bronze in that event as well. Holcomb stood on the podium twice with his team, proud to represent the country he loved and competed for.

In 2017, Holcomb sadly passed away suddenly, leaving the bobsledding world to mourn his passing, and the U.S. to try to find a worthy replacement driver heading into the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. It was also discovered around this time that Russia had been involved in a serious doping scandal, necessitating that several athletes in different sports be stripped of their medals and the standings/medals be adjusted accordingly. This meant that Holcomb and his team earned silver medals in both four-man and two-man instead of bronze. And on this night at the Team USA awards, those rightfully-earned silver medals would be handed out.

The three remaining members of the four-man team and the lone member of the two-man team received their silver medals alongside the parents of the late Steven Holcomb. A truly bittersweet moment for all. Steve’s mother said a few words, all while holding the exact bouquet of flowers he was holding when he got his four-man bronze — she had saved them all these years after he brought them home to her.

But then his teammates got up to speak. Choking back tears, they stressed the importance of integrity in sports, saying that had the Russian athletes competed fairly, Holcomb would’ve been able to initially receive the medal he deserved and enjoy the moment with his teammates. While grateful to finally have justice served, his teammates all said that it didn’t feel as joyful as it could’ve been — that nobody wants to receive a medal under those type of circumstances.

Integrity matters in sports, and it matters in life. Scripture is full of passages telling believers to set a good example in their behavior under all situations, knowing that they serve the Lord, and encouraging them that their reward is in Heaven and not here on earth (see Colossians 3:17, 22).

Winning at all costs never benefits anybody, so be vigilant and wise in how you compete, because Jesus is watching. And remember: Your actions will affect more than just you and your team.

— Katherine Singer

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