Canoeing specialist Bill Havens was almost guaranteed to win a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. But a few months before the games he learned that his wife would likely give birth to their first child while he was away. She told him that she could make it on her own, but this was a milestone Bill didn’t want to miss. So he surprised everyone and stayed home. He greeted his infant son, Frank, into the world on August 1, 1924. Though he always wondered what might have been, he said he never regretted his decision. He poured his life into that little boy and showed him excess love.
Twenty-eight years passed, and the Olympic Games were held in Helsinki, Finland. This time his son Frank was chosen to compete in the canoeing event. The day after the competition, Bill received a telegram from Frank that read: “Dear Dad, thanks for waiting around for me to be born. I’m coming home with the gold medal that you should have won.” It was signed “Your loving son, Frank.”
Frank Havens had just won the gold medal in the singles 10,000 meters canoeing event – a grueling 10,000-meter Canadian single-blade race in 57 minutes and 41 seconds. He broke the world record set by Czechoslovakia’s Frantisek Capek.
Havens remains the only American Olympic gold medal winner in a singles canoeing event.
Havens competed in four Olympics, 1948 at London, 1952 at Helsinki, Finland, 1956 at Melbourne, Australia, and 1960 at Rome, Italy.
Havens, whose many accomplishments include the National Paddling Single Blade championships in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1956, 1957, and 1961 refused to rest. In the 1985 World Masters Games in Toronto, at the age of 61, he paddled his way to seven first-place medals in seven races. The former Olympian continued his extraordinary victory streak in the 1989 World Games in Denmark.
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Bill Havens wanted his family to know they always came first, no matter what. And that made him a hero to a little boy named Frank. Bill understood that medals tarnish, records are broken, and achievements are soon forgotten. These things don’t satisfy. What does? The love you have for your children, and the love they have for you. Jesus pointed out that even when a child is wayward, a parent’s love can restore them.
Are you neglecting your family today? If so, take action immediately! Have a historical week ahead.
Unbowed! Unbent! Unbroken!
A Perfect Gentleman…