Does anyone remember when this happened during the 2000 Sydney Olympics? ( You may have to click on the link to watch it in Youtube to actually get it to play). I've always admired Eric Moussambani’s example of perseverance. Moussambani gained entry to the Olympics without meeting the minimum qualification requirements via a wildcard draw designed to encourage developing countries to participate. Before the Olympics, he had never seen an Olympic-size swimming pool. Infact, he had also only taken up swimming eight months previous and had practiced in a lake.
His story reminds me of the prophet Lehi's vision of The Tree of Life in the Book of Mormon. The vision was received in a dream by the prophet Lehi, and later in vision by his son Nephi, who then wrote about it. The vision includes a path leading to a tree symbolizing eternal life, with an iron rod along the path whereby followers of Jesus may hold to the rod and avoid wandering off the path into pits or waters symbolizing sin. The vision also includes a large building where the wicked look down at the righteous and mock them. I had found several connections between Eric Mossambani and The Tree of Life. First, Eric had a goal. He wanted to make it to the finish line. He knew when he started it would not be easy. He knew he would not be perfect and that he would make mistakes. It was tremendously difficult for him to finish. He was tired but he still gave his best effort and did not give up. Although it was very challenging, he eventually made it to the end. Just like Eric, we have come to earth with one goal. That goal is to go back and live with our loving Heavenly Father. We also knew it wouldn’t be an easy task. We knew we would make mistakes. But with the right perspective, keeping our eye on the finish line (or the Tree of Life), we can do it. I am thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth to take upon Him our sins and sacrifice His life so that we could be forgiven. Second, in order to succeed, Mossambani and the other competitors had to follow the rules of the sport. Sadly, two of the competitors did not follow the rules. They had a false start and were disqualified from the race. We also have rules we must follow in this sport called Life. God has given us commandments. They are found in the scriptures and taught to us through living prophets. When we obey, we are blessed and when we disobey, just like the disqualified swimmers, there are consequences. Another similarity between Mossambani and Lehi's vision are the mockers. When Mossambani first jumps into the pool, you can hear laughter from the audience. The crowd doesn’t believe he can do it. In Lehi’s vision, there is a crowd of onlookers who watch the righteous and mock and laugh. Mossambani did not let those who laughed at him influence his determination and just like him we must also not let those around us influence our determination to be obedient. At the end of the race a reporter asked Mossambani how he felt and he simply answered, “I feel good. I feel happy.” Being obedient to God brings happiness. It allows us to live with no regrets. Eventually it brings the greatest blessing of all. To live with our families with God forever. And isn’t that what we all want?