5 hundreths of a second

I watched a race between Michael Phelps, Olympic champion, for the 200 meter butterfly.

Early on, Phelps looked good.  At the turn, he was ahead.  At the next turn, he was still ahead.  At the next turn, he was still ahead.  He was ahead all the way to the finish, neck-and-neck.

But he didn’t win.

What happened?  His fans, watching on, probably thought he had it before they looked at the scoreboard.  The reactions shown on TV were surprise.  He had been first, and he had seemed to get to the wall first, even.  What happened?

The wall is trained to pick up touch.  As Phelps coasted in for the wall, in the lane right beside him, Chad Le Clos from the Republic of South Africa gave one last effort.  One last drive.  One last shove.

Phelps’ hand touched, but Clos’ hand pushed.  And by 5 hundredths of a second, Clos won.

5 hundreths of a second.

I know that’s a number, but I can’t get my mind around it.  I can barely keep up with tenths of seconds on a stopwatch.  But hundredths? 

The clear favorite, in his favorite race, lost to a far less known swimmer because of the way he came in to the finish.

It made me think about how I want to finish.

I don’t want to come to the finish my life on coast.  I don’t want the last minute of my life to be spent on a grudge, selfish thinking, entertainment, an unkind word, or a cruel thought.  I don’t want the last minute of my life to be spent on greed, or jealousy, or lack of self control, or complacency.  I want the last minute of my life to be spent for Christ.  In fact, I want the last millisecond of my life to be so.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

Photograph by Marc, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/sumofmarc/

Photographs are under Creative Commons License.
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