You may never have heard of Kieran Behan before. In fact, if you don’t follow gymnastics, you probably wouldn’t know he won a few medals in gymnastics last year. You may not even think his performance was all that special in the field of competitive sports. Yet, what is truly remarkable about Kieran isn’t his achievements – it’s the story behind the man and the size of his dream.
The Dreams of a Youth
While other boys his age dreamed of soccer and playing in the big leagues, Kieran dreamed of gymnastics. Strange dream for someone coming from Ireland to have. After all, it’s not exactly known for the sport. But that never stopped him from dreaming.
He Never Stopped Dreaming
At 10, a tumour was discovered in his left thigh. What was to be a routine surgery took a disastrous turn for the worst when the operation messed up big time. He woke screaming in excruciating pain from the catastrophic nerve damage he suffered. To this day, he still experiences limited feeling in one foot. He was wheelchair-bound for 15 months. And he recounts, “The doctors said ‘you’ll never walk again’ and I had to see a psychiatrist who said you have to accept the worst. But that just drove me on; I wanted to prove them wrong. They were saying it was over but I wasn’t having it.” He never stopped dreaming. He made tremendous progress in his physiotherapy and before long was back in the gym.
Who knew, tragedy would strike twice. Within a few months, he slipped from the high bar and smashed his head, suffering severe damage to the part of his brain that controls balance. The slightest wrong movement would make him pass out. For the second time in his childhood, Kieran was back in a wheelchair, this time not just having to learn how to walk again but how to eat and make the simplest movements.
Again, the doctors said ‘it’s the end’; again, he went back to the gym. Only this time, just to spend hour upon hour trying to retrain his brain doing simple exercises like throwing a ball against a wall and catching the rebound. Some days, he could not even manage that.
He was out of school for a year and when he finally returned with a walking stick, he was ridiculed and taunted mercilessly. In spite of it all, he persisted. Through the hard work and determination, it took him three whole years to again become the athlete he was before the accident. All that time, he never stopped dreaming.
But that’s not all. In the relentless pursuit of his dream, he suffered a broken arm, a fractured wrist, and a torn ligament in one knee. And two years ago, just after he qualified to make his debut professionally at the European Championships, the ligament in his other knee snapped. “It was the nearest I ever came to quitting,” Kieran admits. “Sheer despair really but I’d been through a lot worse and knew that, whatever happened, I could always come back.” And he did. He never stopped dreaming and now represents Ireland as its first Olympic gymnast for 16 years.
The challenges didn’t just begin and end with the physical as if that wasn’t bad enough. He received no funding for his training. He worked at his father’s building site or cleaned the gym where he trained in the mornings and then flipped and jumped in that same gym in the afternoon. Thankfully, he wasn’t all alone in this. His parents and community rallied to raise the £12,000 a year he needed. Car washes, cake sales, collection jars; you name it, he and his friends organized it. A few months ago, he finally said goodbye to the times he had to carry a jar full of coins to the bank hoping there would be enough to cover the airfare to an overseas competition.
His father fondly recalls his son’s tenacity, “Through all this, he’s been the one who’s had the determination, belief and heart. We’ve all just been swept along on his wave. He’s guided us all the way. We believed every day because he believed, because he told us everything would be all right.”
And he’s still got that Olympic dream on his mind.
Take It to the Next Level
Nothing is impossible to Him who believes. God has an amazing calling and destiny for every one of us. Are there dreams we have given up on because they seemed too hard? Too out of reach? Surrounded by insurmountable circumstances? The problem isn’t that our dream is too big, too audacious. Joseph had a big dream himself and the road that took him to that dream was full of obstacles. Sold as a slave by his own brothers, framed for an indiscretion he didn’t commit, left to rot in jail. Yet in all those dark moments, he clung to his dream and the God that birthed it in him. He believed, just like Kieran did. And it was God that met Joseph’s belief and faith with His power.
But God goes one giant step further. He not only loves us, but also believes in us. He cheers us on when we’re at our weakest and most broken. He gives us the supernatural ability to believe in Him and the dreams He gives us. It is through Him, we can do what the world says is impossible. And that’s why we testify of His goodness and faithfulness, giving Him the glory for all He’s able to do. If Kieran’s earthly parents loved him so much that they would support him in his dream no matter what, how much more will God, our heavenly Father do for us?
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)
Need an evangelistic Youth Camp/ Bible Study Series with an Olympic Theme?
What is salvation all about? What does it mean to be saved? This sports themed Bible Study / Camp Curriculum uses the Olympic Flag to introduce the concepts of sin (black circle), forgiveness (red circle), purity (white background), spiritual growth (green circle), heaven (Yellow Circle) and (Baptism) blue circle.
-> Tell me about “Go for the Gold”
Need a Youth Camp/ Bible Study Series on “Running the Christian Race”?
The race as a metaphor for the Christian life is used in several places in the Bible. This series is a great follow up for new Christians or to re-emphasize the basics of our spiritual Journey in the Faith. This Bible Study / Camp Curriculum has a sports theme and is great for athletes as well as a tie in to the youth Olympic Games.
->Tell me about “Destined to Win”
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