The Untold Story of Olympic Champion Eric Liddell: Review of Duncan Hamilton's "For the Glory"

NOTE: The intro to this review is posted below. It was originally posted at The Gospel Coalition

For nearly a century Eric Liddell has been one of the English-speaking world’s most well-known Christian athletes. The Scottish sprinter’s fame spread worldwide in 1924 when he followed his Sabbatarian beliefs, skipping the Olympic 100-meter event (which he was favored to win) since it was scheduled for a Sunday. Liddell received criticism from high places in Britain for his lack of “sportsmanship” and “patriotism,” but he stood fast—and ran fast, too. He added the 400-meter race to his repertoire, which he proceeded to win despite barely training for it.

Liddell’s religious convictions and Olympic gold made him a hero for Christian athletes over the next few decades, although the memory of his accomplishments faded over time. That trend was reversed in 1981 with the release of Chariots of Fire, an Oscar-winning film that told the story of Liddell’s Olympic victory. For Christian moviegoers Liddell became an iconic figure, as did his character’s oft-quoted line: “I believe God made me for a purpose—for China. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

Since 1981 there have been a handful of biographies of Liddell. All describe the 1924 Olympics. Many also highlight the story after 1924, when Liddell eschewed glory and riches and opted instead to join his father and mother in China as a missionary. Most of these biographies are devotional and intended for an evangelical audience. With Duncan Hamilton’s For The Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr, however, we have a full-length, mass-market biography of Liddell.

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