This is one of the best stories I have heard in a while.
Being an elite athlete is a brutal occupation. It requires determination, resilience and intense focus. This sometimes means "life" for an athlete can become all about sport. But it is incredibly refreshing when you hear of top athletes who both excel in their sport and display a life balance.
Eloise Wellings is a standout in the Australian distance running community. She has risen through the junior ranks to be one of the greats. For over 15 years she has dominated distance running. From the road to the track her times and performances have cemented her as one of our nation's best runners.
Her performances at the Rio Olympics show that she is still improving. She wiped nearly 40 seconds off her personal best for the 10,000m (31min 14sec) and finished 10th place in a race that saw a world record.
But this rise to two Olympics has come at a great cost. She has battled many obstacles including 11 stress fractures in 10 years. Rather than accepting defeat she displayed her resilience by bouncing back each time.
While athletic comebacks are common, what makes Wellings a true champion is found in the backstory. Eloise Wellings' friend and Ugandan athlete, Julius Achon inspired her to start the Love Mercy Foundation.
Achon lived in a war torn area of Uganda and was abducted by a paramilitary group as an 11-year-old boy. He managed to escape and ran over 300km to reach his home village.
From that troubled background, Achon focused his running abilities to go on to represent his nation at two Olympic Games. But he remained troubled by the challenges of his poor region.
As he shared his story with Wellings the two developed the Love Mercy Foundation. "We exist to transform communities in Uganda by using simple solutions to poverty and by empowering women and girls to access education, health care, and income generation."
Wellings' Foundation has two main arms:
Cents for Seeds provides women a 30kg loan of seeds such as beans or sesame, as well as a hand held gardening tool, educational workshops, and access to savings groups. A 30kg loan can harvest a yield of approximately 150kgs which provides blessings for the entire community. The program also helps train these women as leaders, as well as educating their children.
The Kristina Medical Centre provides primary medical care including triage and treatment, disease testing, inoculation, medication dispensing and education to the whole region.
Wellings' love of running has developed friendships that now impact whole communities. Her love for Jesus has prompted her to live out her faith by starting Love Mercy. What an amazing story that one of our top athletes has achieved great things in her sport.
But what is really outstanding is that this woman has the determination to give something back: to live out her faith and show mercy to those in need. Please visit www.lovemercyfoundation.org/home
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html