In a move that evoked images of “Chariots of Fire,” the 1981 motion picture centering on an Olympic athlete’s refusal to compete on his Sabbath, students from the Seventh-day Adventist Church-owned Peruvian Union University, or UPeU, withdrew from Saturday competitions at the recent National University Games in Chiclayo, Peru. The University Sports Federation of Peru (in Spanish, Federación Deportiva Universitaria del Perú, or FEDUP) are the annual event’s organizers.
The move surprised officials as well as those on the 34 other teams competing in the annual event. Two Adventist runners were qualified for finals in the 100 meter flat races, one having beat the previous national record. While the organizers of the games attempted to accommodate the Adventist students’ schedule — surely a gracious gesture — rules dictated the events proceed as scheduled.
Observing the Bible Sabbath meant forfeiting almost certain wins in the Saturday-scheduled 100 meter flat races. The student team held fast to its beliefs, and instead of running for a medal, they fellowshipped with members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church of San Carlos in Chiclayo. News of the UPeU team’s stand circulated quickly among Adventists in the city.
On the following day, the Adventist team returned to the competition for the 4 x 100 meters event. Spiritually strengthened, and cheered on by local Adventist youth in the stands, the student athletes achieved second place, receiving a silver medal.
Led by coach Nilton Gil, coach and teacher José Nole, the delegation was comprised of student athletes Jhonatán Idrogo, Lucas Pérez, Josué Mejía, Alexander Inga, Valerio Sánchez, Urias Chusdén, Axel Vásquez, Patricio Córdova, and Percy Ordinola.