Two decorated Olympians will be honored with the prestigious Eric Liddell Award – named after the gold medalist Olympian who afterwards became a missionary to China – for outstanding character on and off the field.
Bryan Clay of the United States, who won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in the decathlon and a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics for the same event, will be honored at the More Than Gold Legacy Breakfast in London on Aug. 10, along with Debbie Flood of Great Britain, who won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in quadruple sculls and a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics for the same event.
Both Clay and Flood are devout Christians. Clay founded the Bryan Clay Foundation that mentors youth to develop good character and maximize their potential through programs that pursue physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. Flood is co-founder of Creativity in Sport, an organization that offers at-risk youth the opportunity to study positive life skills curriculum and work toward fitness teaching qualification.
"Eric Liddell was a great man of faith and an example of an ambassador of God both in and outside sport," said Flood in a statement. "God has given me the gifts and abilities that I have and I have tried to use them to the best of my ability while also sharing my faith through how I play my sport on and off the water."
Eric Henry Liddell was a Scottish athlete who lived in the early 20th century who won a gold medal for the 400 meters and a bronze medal for the 200 meters at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. He is perhaps most famous for being a devout Christian and inspiring the Oscar-winning 1981 film "Chariots of Fire," starring Ian Charleson.
Liddell was born in China to Scottish missionary parents and was famously known as the "man who wouldn't run on Sunday" for refusing to run the 100 meters, his best event, at the 1924 Paris Olympics because it was held on the Christian Sabbath. Instead, he ran the 400 meters, an event he was not expected to win. Before he ran, someone slipped him a paper with the verse 1 Samuel 2:30: "Those who honor me, I will honor." Not only did Liddell win the race and earned himself a gold medal, he broke the world record at the time.
The film "Chariots of Fire" is about Liddell's run for the glory of God, and about English Jew Harold Abrahams' run to overcome prejudice.
"I remember watching Chariots of Fire when I was in ninth grade and what stood out the most to me was Eric Liddell's unwavering courage to stand up for what he believed to be right. I'm truly humbled and honored to receive an award in his name," said Clay, one of the 2012 Eric Liddell Award winners.
After the Olympics, Liddell returned to China to serve as a missionary for 18 years, and died in the land of his birth.
The More Than Gold Legacy Breakfast, hosted by the global sports ministry Athletes in Action, will be held during the 2012 London games, and will bring together 400 guests, including some 120 current and former Olympians. Liddell's daughters, Heather Ingham and Patricia Russell, will be among the guests and will help celebrate their father's legacy of character and service.