Olympic Christians

It’s at the end of many victories in the Olympics. The hand point to Heaven. The upward glance. Athletes giving credit to God for their victory. Many even verbally acknowledge Him in television interviews. These outward expressions appear legitimate.

Whether it’s the person behind you in the pew or even in your same house, only God knows the legitimacy of their faith in Him. We can’t really know for sure.

Yet, the Bible does give instructions for giving evidence of the reality of the faith. John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Since I’m a curious person, I wanted to know more about Olympians who are also Christians. More than seeing them finger point and look up, I wanted to know about their lives outside of them being Olympians and if there was evidence of the love Jesus talked about.

In Christian Olympians Give God the Praise at London Summer Games , an article feature tweats where athletes acknowledge God, Lolo Jones said, “Thank You Lord for another opportunity.” Tamika Catchings sent the tweet, “Random praise B4 bed… Where would I be without His grace? So thankful for all the blessings tht continually shower down on me #Godisgood.”

Great examples of expressing one’s faith publicly. But what about showing love? Jones’ life story certainly is inspiring in a Tim Tebow sort of way. Even Time Magazine acknowledges her faith in an article focusing on redemption after her fall in the Beijing Olympics.

Catchings, WNBA MVP and member of the 2012 Women’s Olympic Basketball team, definitely provides inspiration simply by overcoming hearing deficiencies. In addition to her outstanding basketball skills, Catchings is known for being actively involved in (and founder of) Catch the Stars, a foundation that provides an opportunity for inner city kids to be positively reinforced through sports and education.”

In an interview with CBN, Catching says of her faith, ““It is hard to be a Christian in the WNBA… Just trying to walk with Him and not be pulled by all the negative forces from the outside. I think that what I do with my platform is that I live my life as Christ-like as I can.”

Two other athletes, Bryan Clay and Debbie Flood, also provide terrific examples of Olympians living for Jesus.

Bryan Clay, Olympic gold and silver medalist in the decathlon, failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, yet he’s going anyway. Why? To receive the 2012 Eric Liddell Award.

Debbie Flood, a two-time British Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion in rowing, also received the award. (Flood did participate in this year’s Olympic games, but her rowing team was unable to secure a medal in their race.)

The 2012 Eric Liddell Award is awarded to one male and one female Olympian for outstanding “character at home, in the community and on and off the field of competition.”

Liddell was a committed Christian who won gold in the 400m at the 1924 Paris Olympics. You might have heard about him from the inspirational film Chariots of Fire. The award bearing his name honors one male and female athlete for outstanding character at home, in the community, and on and off the field of competition.

More important than their Olympic career is how they live out their faith. Clay founded the Bryan Clay Foundation in 2005 to help children discover their gifts and develop their character. Flood co-founded Creativity in Sport, a community interest organization giving at-risk youth opportunities to study positive life skills curriculum and work toward fitness teaching qualification.

Doesn’t knowing that an athlete lives for Christ make you want to cheer for them even more? While I enjoy watching the Olympics because of the athleticism and the excitement of the competition, I find joy in discovering athletes who achieve victory outside of their sport in ways that make an eternal difference.

DISCUSSION: What additional examples of Olympian Christians can you give? Does an Olympian being a Christian inspire you more than other Olympians?

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9 thoughts on “Olympic Christians

  1. Love the post today, Kari. You highlight some incredible athletes who also love the Lord Jesus Christ. YouTube has a series called "I Am Second," which involves celebrities and athletes who acknowledge their faith in Jesus Christ. This past week I watched Kathy Ireland of SI Swimsuit model fame share her faith. The program is an excellent reminder of Who is first in life.

    • Thanks for the additional resource! For me, just seeing acknowledgement of God isn't enough. I mean, God most people believe in God. It's when people start saying "Jesus" that gets me excited because I know that NOW we're getting to the real stuff. Love it!

  2. I do want to cheer for someone who shows that he lives for Christ. I appreciate when I hear them confess him after they have done well. I know they do not interview many people who don’t medal but I would really like to hear someone praise God when they fail; when they messed up, when things went against them. For that is life as we all deal with it. And praise to God should not only come during bounty but also when we bungled up something or our best was not the best.

    • I agree. I would love to hear "loser" interviews of people who are Christians. I would love to see them show how they are really more of winners than many who did get a gold medal.

  3. I'm not really up on my Olympic trivia, so won't be much help here 🙂 Other than Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Mary Lou Rhetton, I'd probably have a tough time naming another Olympian, haha.
    But Liddell is the classic – I knew he was a runner but didn't realize he was a gold medal-winning Olympian. His story is a classic.

    • By no means am I am expert, but I do enjoy the stories about Olympians. I love to hear about their struggle and how they persevered to make it to this elite level. I find that very inspiring.

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