The 1924 Summer Olympics were hosted by the city of Paris. A devout Christian, Liddell refused to run in a heat held on Sunday and was forced to withdraw from the 100-metre race, his best event. The schedule had been published several months earlier, and his decision was made well before the Games. Liddell spent the intervening months training for the 400-metre race, though his best pre-Olympics time of 49.6 seconds, set in winning the 1924 AAA championship 440-yard race, was modest by international standards. On the morning of the Olympic 400-metre final, 11 July 1924, Liddell was handed a folded square of paper by one of the team masseurs. Reading it later he found the message: “In the old book it says: ‘He that honours me I will honour.’ Wishing you the best of success always.” Recognising the reference to 1 Samuel 2:30, Liddell was profoundly moved that someone other than his coach believed in him and the stance he had taken.
The pipe band of the 51st Highland Brigade played outside the stadium for the hour before he ran. The 400-metre had been considered a middle-distance event in which runners raced round the first bend and coasted through the back leg. Inspired by the Biblical message, and deprived of a view of the other runners because he drew the outside lane, Liddell raced the whole of the first 200 metres to be well clear of the favoured Americans. With little option but to then treat the race as a complete sprint, he continued to race around the final bend. He was challenged all the way down the home straight but held on to take the win. He broke the Olympic and world records with a time of 47.6 seconds. It was controversially ratified as a world record, despite it being 0.2 seconds slower than the record for the greater distance of 440 yards.
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