SSCB Olympian – Olympian Spirit
Timothy Pitt (fencing, men’s sabre, silver: 1987 Wenlock Olympian Games)
There are three weapon disciplines in the sport of fencing – sabre, epee and foil. Traditionally, Hungary is the leading nation in sabre and indeed this summer Áron Szilágyi (no relation to the minister’s wife) became the first person to win gold at three Olympics in a row.
A little closer to home, one member of our church family used to be a fencer and his Olympian effort secured a silver medal.
At university, there was a dedicated fencing club (it’s a wonder most of them ended up with a degree and a career) and the coach had his own minibus, so throughout their university time in the mid / late 1980s, they would travel to as many competitions as they could. One year the call went out that they were going down to Shropshire for an Open Competition. The minibus was packed up with kit, food and athletes, and off they went. Truth be told, they thought it was just another competition.
The competition was at Much Wenlock, and slowly the word came round that competition here was special – unique in fact. For Dr William Penny Brookes had introduced the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850. Baron Pierre de Cubertin visited in 1890 and in 1896 he introduced the modern Olympic Games that we know today.
It was truly inspiring to be there at Much Wenlock, part of the Olympic story.
Our fencer even made it to the final which ended in a rare 3-way tie for 1st place. There was a three-way repechage (a ‘fence off’) for the places, and our fencer came away happy with a medal, although he had not won outright.
But he took with him not just the bronze medal, but the knowledge of the Wenlock Olympian Games, Dr Brookes and the sleepy town of Much Wenlock. He found himself sharing the extraordinary tale of the ‘original’ revived Games with anyone who would listen (and quite a few others who were subjected to ‘tales from the fencing minibus’ over the years.
There was a wry smile (and an opportunity to share more of the story) when the London 2012 Olympic Committee named one of their mascots “Wenlock.”
When our minister announced he was going to do a series on the Olympics, it was shared again. ’Nice story. Prove it,’ smiled the minister. The medal had been lost many years before by the fencer’s late mother, but the internet soon guided him to the Wenlock Olympian Society where their archivist found a new newspaper cutting that showed that he had been there, but that he had not won the bronze. He had in fact been placed 2nd equal. The three-way repechage was purely to find the gold medal winner, and as they did not have a spare silver medal someone had to be awarded the bronze even though it was equal-silver. The fencer now has a replacement medal, free membership of the Wenlock Olympian Society and yet another excuse to continue to spread the word. That’s pretty much how the Holy Spirit tends to work: to be active for someone, be with them in their story and then help them to spread the message. Timothy Pitt: Silver medal in the Men’s Sabre, 1987. Holy Spirit: Overall victory.
(Logo of Wenlock Olympian Society Bby www.wenlock-olympian-society.org.uk/, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56558656)
[from GV after Timothy Pitt]