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Olympian’s act reminds us selflessness is still alive

By: Tim W. Callaway

  |  Posted: Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 06:00 am

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“I look up to Denny a lot. He inspires me every day. This is my way of paying him back … When he won silver … it was Denny’s moment.”

- Gilmore Junio (Canadian speed-skater, who allowed teammate Denny Morrison to compete in his place)

Every now and then the sun breaks through the smog of our Kim Kardashian-Miley Cyrus-Rob Ford encrusted popular culture to spectacularly remind us that denying self is neither a forgotten nor unappreciated virtue. Thank you, Gilmore Junio!

And - get this - the Olympic hero had the decency to credit his parents and a disciplined upbringing for bestowing in him the sensibility to make the widely applauded decision that is now a part of Olympics folklore. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Junio! You have every reason to be gratified!

Part of the reason the younger Junio’s selfless act resonates with us is because stimuli such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, have made a substantial contribution to an increasingly narcissistic age. A promotional packet I recently received for an upcoming seminar promised that those who attend would discover career-altering secrets for distinguishing themselves in today’s marketplace. The material openly acknowledged the ability to outsmart the competition with respect to using social media is a “must” for those early-birds who hope to get the worm, to cite a figure-of-speech from my ancient era.

To be clear, I am not knocking the cultivation or promotion of disciplined pursuit of a competitive edge. The inclinations currently afoot via certain educational philosophies to do away with the old-fashioned grading system and to neuter any reward for superior performance is arguably ill-advised. To consciously fail to adequately or accurately prepare young people for the shark-tank realities governing the modern business world is shockingly myopic in my estimation.

Nevertheless, Gilmore Junio’s selflessness and the fanfare it was accorded should serve as a timely reminder to us all that there yet remains a highly-respected place of honour in our worldview for those willing to sacrifice personal aspirations for the sake of a unique form of noblesse oblige.

Indeed, as The Globe and Mail well summarized last weekend: “Beyond the fractious politics of the Olympics, beyond the billions of dollars wasted on vanity venues, the crass commercialization and the race for celebrity and ratings, there is an Olympic spirit. Mr. Junio represents what is best about it. And no country can ever have too many people like that.”

Tim W. Callaway is pastor of Faith Community Church in Airdrie. He can be reached at


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