Many Olympians from all over the world cling to their faith during a most unusual Olympics
GO TEAM CANADA GO!
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics of course didn’t happen, and so, not to waste all of the expensive signage, building of the Olympic Village, and of course winning the bid to host – Japan – and all of the incredible Olympians are doing their very best at this very unusual Olympics.
In the wake of a fourth wave declared by Japan, a sign in English, during ABC News, held by a Japanese woman while she was protesting the Olympics read: “No Olympics in Japan… “ then at the bottom right it read: “Sorry, we’re all very tired.”
In March, the Canadian Olympic committee announced that they would refuse to send Olympic or Paralympic athletes to the Games this summer even if they do happen on schedule.
Still they pressed on, and the ancient games must go on!
The excellence, sacrifice, and determination these athletes put into their various sport is nothing short of miraculous as they strive to be the best in their field.
But this Olympics has been dubbed the, “No fun Olympics.”
And the brutal judgement social media – even some political representatives in Simone Biles’s State of Texas is nothing short of embarrassing and cruel. The 24 year old woman is a world champion phenom.
As many athletes bowed out before and during the games, the world’s best gymnast, Simone Biles had to leave (but stayed with the team on the field) due to mental health and feeling “the weight of the world on her shoulder’s,” we get a sense that these Olympics truly are – no fun.
The Washington Post reports that “athletes are eating alone and maintaining a distance everywhere they go. Even chaplains looking after athletes’ spiritual health largely have gone virtual.”
And we all know how great that is; although it’s better than nothing – athletes who are struggling don’t have their loved ones near.
But millions around the world and media love the Olympics and so as we are inundated with solo medal ceremonies, the absence of cheering crowds; and still, it’s great to acknowledge the excellence, courage – all in the face of great odds, that these Olympians bring to the podium.
Religion News Service reports that “Will Thompson, Japan director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, explained why those accommodations are important for athletes, who he said are “created as physical, mental, and spiritual beings… https://religionnews.com/2021/07/23/olympics-religious-accommodations-outreach-look-a-little-different-in-tokyo-amid-pandemic-heres-how/
And so, we give a big shout and prayers for all of the Olympians; and a shout out – and all credit to media outlets – Christianity Today, Washington Post, RNS, NPR, NBC Sports, PhilStar, Catholic News Agency, and good ‘ole Google for this list of Christian athletes who give all praise to God during one of the most stressful, delightful, miraculous, and incredibly difficult times of their lives:
Hidilyn Diaz – weightlifter, Philippines “After completing her final lift in a very close competition, Diaz held her hands to her face, burst into tears and clutched at her Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging from her neck. Thank you, Lord, thank you Lord,” she cried repeatedly after the winning lift.” (CNA)
Lucas Lautaro Guzman, Taekwondo (Argentina) @lucastkd94
In 2012, Sebastián Crismanich taekwondo gold medalist. “I must confess that Christ is the best that has ever happened to me. And I don’t want to convince them to think the way I think. In the end, what we say is useful as long as there is evidence in our actions and conduct.”
Nicola McDermott, high jump (Australia) @nicolalmcdermott
Off the field, she cofounded Everlasting Crowns, a ministry where she hopes “fellow athletes transformed by Jesus’s perfect love, planted in churches and discipled to be a blessing to every place they are sent.” Faith for me was realising that I am loved regardless of performance—high jumping is simply a way to connect me to God.”
Charles Fernandez, Modern Pentathlon (Guatemala) @charlesfernandez_5
When Charles Fernandez was seven years old, his family moved from the United States to his father’s home country of Guatemala to serve as missionaries. After winning two regional events in 2018 he said, “That is why I do what I do, to be a light of Christ unto the nations in this sport.”
Jonatan Christie, Badminton (Indonesia) @jonatanchristieofficial
No country has a larger Muslim population than Indonesia. But one of their most beloved athletes is a 23-year-old badminton player who loves Jesus. To follow Jesus doesn’t always mean that everything will be okay. I still have to face many trials. But for me, whatever trials God allows us to face, we must continue to learn and grow. If we can get through a problem with God, there must be a new door that opens, so we can be more mature in dealing with our problems.”
Raelin D’Alie, 3×3 Basketball (Italy) @rmdalie11 “I’m a person of faith, so how I respond to suffering is I pray and I sing to God.
Yohan Blake, Sprinter (Jamaica) @yohanblake According to his website bio, Blake “sees himself as being placed on earth by God to help and care for the sheep like a loving shepherd.
Odunayo Adekuoroye, Wrestling (Nigeria)
Only one Nigerian female athlete has ever won a gold medal at the Olympics. Adekuoroye grew up in southwest Nigeria and, as a child, hawked goods on the street. “As a Christian, I believe in the principle of work and pray as directed in the Bible.”
Nick Willis, distance runner (New Zealand) @willisnick
After four Olympics, Kiwi Nick Willis is back for his fifth. “Sometimes I want to retire, but God has given me this gift, so I’ll run and run!” He got involved with Athletes in Action and reconnected with his childhood faith, an act that helped him cope with the grief he still felt at losing his mother at a young age. “Something started tapping on my heart, telling me that my mom was watching my life from heaven. I tried to fight it off with more alcohol, and late nights, but the knocking on my heart became louder and louder,” This became impossible to deny. I knew God was chasing me and had been for many years. I decided to finally stop running from Him.”
Wayde Van Niekerk, Sprints (South Africa) @waydedreamer
When Wayde Van Niekerk won the 400m in Rio and shattered Michael Johnson’s longtime record, he immediately opened his mouth and praised God. “I have dreamed of this since I was a little kid,” The only thing I can do now is to give God praise. I went on my knees each and every day and I told the Lord to take care of me and look after me every step I asked the Lord to carry me through the race and I am really just blessed for this opportunity. “The Lord’s faithful love steadies me.”
An Baul, Judo (South Korea) @anbaul
Before he went into his gold medal match at Rio, Baul An prayed. “I didn’t pray for An Baul to win the gold medal. I just prayed that I could do my best and come back without regrets. … Even if it’s not the Olympics, I tend to pray like this before every game. Please pray for our safety and health during the Olympics, so that we can do well as much as we practiced, with no regrets.”
Latisha (Yung-jan) Chan, Tennis (Taiwan) @latishayjchan
Latisha Chan and her older sister Chan Hao-ching will be playing for the second straight Olympics as they attempt to get past the quarterfinals, where they lost in 2016, “Most of my prayers to our heavenly Father are not about winning the matches, but about asking for guidance, I pray that we would not get injured, and that we would have a good game. Also, that regardless of the eventual result, we would be able to accept it and learn a humble attitude through the process.”
Cherelle Thompson, Swimming (Trinidad & Tobago) @cher_ellet
Cherelle Thompson wanted to make the Olympic team last year. But as her fellow athletes know so well, things don’t always go as planned. Unable to enter a pool during the first months of the pandemic last year, Thompson recognized her need to cling to her faith during this time. “I am acknowledging my limited view on life and my future and trusting it to Him because of His sovereignty and track record in taking good care of His own.”
Joshua Cheptegei, distance running (Uganda) @joshuacheptegei
“Just watch the space, GOD has so many Golds for me in store, HE will strengthen me, I am the Lord’s worrior,” he tweeted. In 2020, Cheptegei set the world record for the 5,000m and 10,000m races.
Simone Manuel, Swimming (USA) @swimone
In 2016, Simone Manuel took home four Olympic medals, two gold and two silver: She won gold in the 100m freestyle and the 4x100m medley relay. She took silver as part of the 4×100m freestyle relay and in the 50m freestyle event. The 24-year-old co-captain of the swim team told NBC Sports, “I just had to take a moment to praise God,” Manuel told NBC Sports … I’m so thankful for the blessings that God has given me.”
Sydney McLaughlin, Track and Field, United States
“I think the biggest difference this year is my faith, trusting God and trusting that process, and knowing that he’s in control of everything. As long as I put the hard work in, he’s going to carry me through.” McLaughlin simply states in her Instagram bio, “Jesus saved me.”
Kyle Snyder, Wrestling, United States
“Wins or losses don’t define me. I mean, I love wrestling; it’s a big part of my life; but I’m not defined by the sport. I’m defined by my faith in Jesus.”
Helen Maroulis, Wrestling, United States
“I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, God, not many people win the Olympics. This is so cool because it was a goal for so long and it felt so out of reach for so long that I just assumed you needed to be pretty much superhuman in order to win.’” (Sports Spectrum Magazine)
Micah Christenson, Volleyball, United States
Christenson describes himself as a “servant of the King.”
Michael Andrew, Swimming, United States
“This outcome is today, where we are now, and it’s amazing, but it’s perishable. And I think I can stand up on the blocks today and tomorrow and the rest of my life with a lot of freedom, knowing that it doesn’t increase my worth and my value to my friends, my relationships, my family, and ultimately, with Jesus Christ.”
Melissa Gonzalez, Track and Field, Colombia
Wherever she’s living, she aims to make a stand for Christ. “I’m not willing to compromise my beliefs,” Gonzalez told SportGoMag.com. “Yes, it may be easier, and much more comfortable, to go along with whatever my teammates are doing, but it’s not what we’re called to do as Christ followers. We’re not promised a comfortable life. In fact, if we choose to follow Christ, we are promised to face opposition and persecution.”
Of course, there are Olympians of all faiths, and of the more than 11,000 athletes many more Christians competing, and we salute their hard work and dedication – and pray for their safety and health.
We send our wishes and prayers to all of the Olympian athletes of all faiths – and pray for their safety – and blessings for the Japanese people.
DOCUMENTARY: In 2018, former Context Anchor/Reporter Molly Thomas interviewed Khamika Gingham – watch the interview here: https://watch.intothecastle.com/endurance/season:1/videos/endurance-khamica-bingham