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For the Glory The Life of Eric Liddell from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr By Duncan Hamilton

Release date: 13th May, 2016
Publisher: Doubleday

List Price: £19.99
Our Price: £13.99
You Save: £6 (30%)
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Duncan Hamilton has twice won the sports book of the year award and it would be no surprise if For the Glory, his compelling biography of Eric Liddell, ensured he completed a unique hat-trick later this year.

Our knowledge of Liddell has largely been determined by the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, although as is so often the case, Hollywood’s need to inject drama into a film overrides historical fact; Hamilton’s engaging narrative rectifies this.

A Scot born in China, Liddell refused to run in the 100 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics, despite being the hot favourite to strike gold, because the final was held on a Sunday.

British team officials explained that in France, the Sabbath ended at noon and, as the final was scheduled for the afternoon, he was free to race. “My Sabbath lasts all day,” replied Liddell, an unequivocal affirmation of faith which gave fellow Brit Harold Abrahams an unexpected opportunity to win gold – which he did, in a (then) Olympic record time of 10.6 seconds.

Liddell did salvage a bronze in the 200 metres but secured his place in the record books by winning the 400 metres, also in a new Olympic record time.

Yet sport was only one aspect of Liddell’s fascinating life and in Hamilton’s accomplished biographical hands, the period after 1924 is equally gripping.

Liddell returned to China where, as a Christian missionary, he taught science in what was a shockingly violent society, one where unmarried pregnant women were buried alive. The terror and danger multiplied after the Japanese seized power as missionaries were routinely beheaded. On one occasion, Liddell rescued a man left for dead by the Japanese, loading him onto a hand-cart and pulling him almost 20 miles to safety; the man converted to Christianity.

Later, Liddell moved his family to Canada while he remained in China, though from 1943, he was interned in a Japanese POW camp. Prisoners were starved, beaten and murdered; Liddell too suffered ill-treatment and he would die of a brain tumour in 1945 aged just 43.

In an age where some of those who make a living from sport habitually cheat in order to gain an advantage, Liddell appears something of anathema, but this is an uplifting story of a truly decent man, his athletic prowess and his unwavering faith. Read it.


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