The Olympic motto has inspired and motivated Olympic athletes throughout the years. “Citius, Altius, Fortius” interpreted into English means “Faster, Higher, Stronger” and is a call to scale the heights, broaden horizons, reset standards, beat the clock, and better the best.
Citius is the Latin word for “faster.” Some would say that today’s synthetic tracks and starting blocks have helped modern-day runners perform faster. Others would credit better-conditioned athletes and more knowledgeable coaches. Still others contend that the grooming process of today’s athletes begins at an earlier age than before. Statistics don’t lie, however, and the numbers show that the pace is faster than ever in Olympic track events.
If you have been keeping up with the Olympics in Rio you are no doubt familiar with the name Usain St. Leo Bolt. He is the Jamaican sprinter regarded as the fastest human being ever timed.
The Jamaican speed merchant is the first man ever to hold both the 100 meters and 200 meters world records since fully automatic time became mandatory. Bolt, the sprint king, is a world celebrity and has the uncanny ability to take his 6’ 5” 207 lb. frame with wide shoulders, carved muscles, narrow waist, and tapered legs around the track at what seems to be lightning speed.
Bolt admittedly doesn’t like to train, but his pursuit of athletic immortality pushed him to do whatever was necessary to become unbeatable. He has been known to blast through a set of 10 consecutive 200-meter sprints on his Jamaica practice track and then collapse in exhaustion.
Altius is the Latin word for “higher.” Basketball players are increasing their vertical jump with each passing decade. High jumpers continue to set new marks as they soar to new elevations year after year. The pole-vaulters almost seem to defy the law of gravity as they hurl themselves over those precariously perched bars extended ever higher and higher. These physical achievements, however, serve only to illustrate the high ideals inspired by the Olympic games.
The speed, strength, and technique of pole-vaulters permit them to go higher and higher. In 1896 William Welles Hoyt of the United States won the gold medal in Athens, Greece with a jump of 10 feet, 10 inches. In the Rio Olympics, Brazil’s Thiago Braz da Silva propelled himself over a bar raised 6.03 meters (19.8 feet) above the track and destroyed the Olympic record set earlier in the evening by Renaud Lavillenie from France, who won the silver medal.
Is the sky the limit for pole-vaulters? Although they will continue to jump higher and higher in years to come, they will always find the battle with gravity a tremendous challenge to overcome. Personally, I do an occasional rapture drill, but I generally get no more then four inches off the floor.
Fortius is the Latin word for “stronger.” You could look at the hulking power lifters and see an example of strength and fortitude. Just as the 100 meter sprint defines the world’s fastest athletes, so weightlifting identifies the world’s strongest. Powerlifting demands vast amounts of power, technique, and determination. This sport pushes the human body to its limits.
In Rio, Long Qingquan won a gold medal in the 56kg category with a new world record of 307 kg (676.8 pounds), which surpassed Halil Mutlu’s world record of 305 kg set at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
But almost every Olympic event requires an amazing measure of strength. Every four years the Olympic games provide a new benchmark in strength as the participants prove themselves to be fortius et fortius. If records are meant to be broken, the Olympics prove it. There is something about the human spirit that calls us to new frontiers, conquer new worlds, expand our horizons, and beat the best.
Citius, Altius, Fortius is all about aspiration, achievement, and excellence. The Apostle Paul would refer to it as “pressing toward the mark.”
It is only right that the Olympics inspire and demand excellence. So does the Lord of heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Surely, God deserves our best, but so often we give Him the odd moments of our time, the ragged edge of our talents, and a trifling trickle of our treasure.
If the motto of the Olympics is Citius, Altius, Fortius, the motto of the Christian should be “semper verus, semper, probus, semper fidelis”, or “always true, always obedient, always faithful.”