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Sports Spectrum Daily Devotional: Friday, December 18

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” — 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

The Comeback

Some called it one of the greatest comebacks in all of sports. I remember watching it happen and wondering how in the world victory could come from such a devastating result. And I recall being impressed with his poise in spite of his incredible disappointment. And his disbelief when that all faded into delirious joy hours later.

Paul Hamm, who had just been part of the first American men’s gymnastics team to bring home an Olympic medal in 20 years, found himself back at the venue a couple days later for the all-around competition. Hamm, a Wisconsin farm kid who was at his second Olympics and was sharing the experience with his twin brother, came into the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics as the reigning all-around world champion. Already with a silver from the team competition, expectations couldn’t have been higher for the young man.

The day of the all-around event, Paul didn’t feel the best. Tired and sore from the team competition, he somehow pulled himself together that morning and felt OK enough by warmups to compete. The first three rounds went well, and he found himself sitting in first place. Things were going according to plan. Then it came time for the vault. Little did Hamm know that his vault would become extremely memorable — for all the wrong reasons. As he sprinted down the runway and hit the springboard and vault table, he still remembers feeling slightly off, likely the tiredness catching up with him. When he landed, he over-rotated and stumbled off the padding, falling down, and nearly crashing into the judge’s table. The crowd gasped. In an instant, Hamm went from first place down to 12th. The dream looked to be over.

Still, he composed himself. With two rotations left, he told himself that if he could nail the last two disciplines, he still maybe had a shot of making the podium … for a bronze. Shaking off the disastrous vault routine, he proceeded to go for it in both his final events, giving himself every chance to improve his standing. His last two routines were spectacular and, to everyone’s shock, so good that he re-claimed the lead and captured what seemed to be an unlikely gold medal! The world was stunned. To this day, many say his performance sparked a re-birth in men’s gymnastics for the United States. But it could not have come in a more dramatic way.

Like Paul Hamm, we’ve all had our share of great falls — moments when everything we’ve worked and hoped for came crashing down and our efforts appeared to be futile. When that happens, how do we respond? Do we quit and let our circumstances have the last word, or do we allow them to be a setback that prepares us for an even greater comeback?

God is a God of second chances, and even our biggest failures are never the end with Him. So when you fall, pick yourself back up. Your greatest low is only getting you ready for something better that God wants to do in your life going forward.

— Katherine Singer

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