(Photograph of Allyson Felix courtesy of Flickr. Equipe américaine du 4x400 à Londres, 2012. On voit ici Allyson Felix, is the work of Citizen59 under this CC license.)
Ever wondered what it’s like to be a Christian athlete in the Olympics? How would you live out your faith in an environment that stresses your mind and stretches your sanity? The following athletes shine a light on what it means to live Christ-like during The Games and how their faith in something bigger than themselves is how they have made it where they are today.
Allyson is a Christian athlete who has more medals than any other member of Team USA and she wants to add even more during the Rio games. When asked if she expected to be where she is in life right now, she responded, “I never expected to be a professional athlete. I had to really trust Him and His plan for my life. We always have our own idea of how our life is going to go, but we really have to follow the Lord’s will. I had to trust him in regards to injuries and other life situations.”
“I have learned that track doesn't define me. My faith defines me. I'm running because I have been blessed with a gift.” –Allyson Felix
Just being Gabby Douglas is a stressor all by itself. Throw being the first African-American female gymnast to win the gold medal in the all-around competition into the mix, and you’ve got a whirlwind for this Christian athlete.
Gabby grew up being homeschooled so that she could focus on gymnastics, and during this time, her faith in God was strengthened. She brings her Bible with her to competitions and prays during them. She memorizes verses that she can recite to herself whenever she becomes overwhelmed.
“Never give up and always keep fighting, because though times may be tough, the sacrifices do pay off, so just keep pushing towards your dream and just love it at the same time and enjoy it.” –Gabby Douglas
Another Christian athlete on the Rio scene is David Boudia. He competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 Olympics in London, after almost not qualifying. He is the author of the book Greater than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption.
How does he handle the stress of being a Christian athlete surrounded by the temptations of the world in Rio? This is how he responds. “If I represent a good God, I need to be that visual representation of him all the time, not just when I feel like it.”
David and his diving partner, Steele Johnson, expressed a testimony of their faith during a post-dive interview after winning a silver medal.
“When I go into competition, I have to take my thoughts captive and use God's Word to fight that battle.” –David Boudia
Christian athlete Jarryd Wallace lost his leg only two days after he became a Christian. Talk about testing his faith! He had been diagnosed with compartment syndrome, a hereditary disease that cuts off blood from lower extremities, during his younger years. He continued to compete in track and field even after losing his right leg at the knee.
This Christian athlete has started a foundation called “A Leg in Faith,” whose goal is to provide running prostheses and devices for amputees who do not have the resources.
Wallace says, “I’m blessed that through a tragedy, the Lord has brought me where I am now, where I have an awesome platform to do what I love and also to share my story.”
For Christian athletes, it’s often hard to wait and see what God’s will is. After trading a baseball bat for a spring floor, Christian athlete Jake Dalton made the 2012 Olympic team to represent USA in gymnastics. He had Philippians 4:13 tattooed on his side just months before. Why did he do this? “I wanted to have a daily reminder to do everything I could to be on that team and that it was God’s plan if I made it or not,” said Dalton.
Dalton believes that fitness and faith go hand in hand. “There are going to be times where you are tested and you need to do your best to stay on track,” the Christian athlete said. “You are going to fail, but as long as you do your best to remember the end goal, you will be successful.” Dalton has since become a four-time world medalist and has won more than a dozen national medals.
“Usually you’re afraid to get hurt, so my thought process is, if that’s God’s plan that I’m going to get injured, there’s going to be a reason for it and it’s going to make me stronger,” he said. “I’m ready to go and just put my faith that God’s going to carry me through and keep me safe.” –Jake Dalton
After almost leaving the Los Angeles Clippers for the Dallas Mavericks last summer, Christian athlete DeAndre Jordan has been the talk of the sports world. Competing in his first Olympics in Rio, Jordan expresses how he deals with stress and possible disappointment. “You see, the most amazing thing about having faith and believing is that once you give yourself to the Lord, you are able to live freely,” said Jordan.
The Christian athlete has a part of the Sermon on the Mount tattooed on his chest as a reminder that we don’t need to worry about what has happened or what might happen or what we want to happen. “You simply need to be a good person and work hard, because you know God has a plan for you.”
Joining 11 other NBA stars, DeAndre Jordan looks to bring home a Gold in Rio.
Christian athlete Maya DiRado is competing in her first and last Olympics in Rio. Claiming she is not defined by her swimming accomplishments, DiRado was ready to move on after she missed qualifying for the 2012 games. She said, “I don’t think God really cares about my swimming very much. This is not my end purpose, to make the Olympic team.”
Where does her confidence come from? The Christian athlete says that knowing that she is a child of God and that His love for her is determined by nothing she can achieve or do on her own gives her confidence.
Competing in three different events in Rio, DiRado explains what she thinks God cares about as she prepares. “I think God cares about my soul and whether I’m bringing his love and mercy into the world. Can I be a loving, supportive teammate and can I bless others around me in the same way God has been so generous with me?”
The Christian athlete is projected to medal in at least two of her events.
Whether they are diving off a platform or shooting some hoops, these Christian athletes know that God is on their side. They strive every day to remember that His will is going to prevail and nothing they do is going to change that. All they can do is trust in Him and live out their faith daily, even during the stresses of the Olympic games, because at the end of the day, only one thing matters, and it isn’t winning a gold medal.
In order to pursue their callings, many of these Christian athletes needed to be homeschooled. If God is calling you to use your gifts for His glory in a similar way, you will likely need a flexible way to get the best education possible. Enlightium Academy is an accredited Pre-K–12 online Christian school that equips students to become Christian leaders while allowing them to work at their own pace through an individualized curriculum on a flexible schedule with one-on-one teacher support.