21 February 2009

A true witness for Christ

Today is the Birthday In The Lord of Eric Liddel "The Flying Scotsman," the son of Scottish missionaries.

Liddell was born 16 January 1902, Tientsin, China and died 21 February 1945, Weihsien, China.

A gifted athlete, he excelled at rugby as well as running. He first gained national recognition by winning the 100- and 200-metre runs at the Amateur Athletic Association championships in 1923.

At the 1924 Olympics, Liddel dropped out of the 100-metre run—his strongest event—because the final was scheduled for a Sunday. Instead, he trained for the 200- and 400-metre runs. At the Games, he finished third in the 200-metre run and turned in a remarkable performance to win the 400 metres. Starting in the outside lane, Liddell sprinted out of the blocks and set such a blistering pace that two racers stumbled trying to keep up. He won the race in a record time of 47.6 sec.

The experiences of Liddell and his teammate Harold Abrahams were portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire (1981)

A year after the Olympic Games, Liddell returned to China to do missionary work with his father. Eric died of a brain tumour while interred in a Japanese camp during World War II.

In an interesting bit of trivia, the brilliant Scottish actor who played Liddle, in Chariots, Ian Charleson was a respected Shakespearean actor. Mere moments after completing a performance of Hamlet, Charleson collapsed and died from complications of AIDS. He was forty years old - just three years younger than Liddle was when he died in the Japanese concentration camp.

In preparation for the role, Charleson read the bible from cover to cover. The clip below, from the film, was scripted by Charleson himself.