- February 2, 2018
We believe that 2018 is a year for many great and new possibilities. Maybe you have an important New Year’s resolution to tackle or you’re looking to spend more time together as a family. Whatever you hope to experience this year, one exciting will kick off the year when the Winter Olympics take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The world of sports is full of Christian athletes who are looking to broadcast the name of Jesus as they compete for their sports’ highest honor. Each athlete is unique in how he displays his beliefs, but we are thrilled that so many competitors choose to use their moment in the spotlight. Check out many of the famous Christians in sports who made their views known at the 2016 Olympics. Here are a few of the Christian athletes who have competed in the Winter Olympics in recent years. We look forward to seeing what new heroes are born in the 2018 games.
Shaun White may be the name that many Americans associate with Olympic snowboarding, but Kelly Clark has been a force to be reckoned with on the halfpipe as well. Clark began her snowboarding career as a young child and essentially reached the top of her sport by the time she was old enough to rent a car. Like many athletes who experience success at a young age, her identity was wrapped up in winning, a lifestyle that ultimately left her feeling hollow. Clark has five gold medals from the Winter X Games as well as three medals from the Winter Olympics. Find out more about her story by watching this video produced by Athletes in Action.
Speaking of tearing up the halfpipe, David Wise is another of the Christian athletes that has been seen in the Winter Olympics. The freestyle skier first experienced global success at the 2012 Winter X Games, an event where he would win gold medals three years in a row. On the Olympic level, Wise was able to take home a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi games. Unlike Tim Tebow and other famous celebrity Christians, Wise isn’t that vocal about his faith. He seeks to live his faith out before approaching the subject of Christianity. Find more on that conversation here.
Sometimes we look at the career of athletes as this upward line that starts with a woman being an underdog and slowly rising through the ranks until she gets everything she’s wanted and goes out on top. Some Christian athletes don’t experience such a clear direction, though. Lauryn Williams regrettably was part of two Olympic relay teams that were disqualified after faulty baton handoffs in 2004 and 2008. After her career as a sprinter had run its course, Williams decided to shoot for Olympic glory once more, this time as part of the women’s bobsled team in the 2014 Sochi games. The team was able to win a silver medal, thereby allowing Williams to at least reach a satisfying ending to her Olympic career. Through the ups and downs of her athletic years, Lauryn Williams has looked to God as a source of direction and purpose.
A very similar career trajectory was taken by Lolo Jones. Known mostly as a world-class hurdler, Jones earned three national titles at LSU before entering the professional arena. Although she has had success in a number of different competitions, Jones was plagued with issues when it came to the Olympic games. In 2008, she was in the front of the pack until she tripped over the next to last hurdle, finishing in seventh-place. Then in 2012 she advanced to the finals and ended up in fourth. Like Lauryn Williams, Lolo Jones found new life when she took up bobsledding. She was even part of the same 2012 team as Williams, though Jones did not receive a medal. Outside of running, Lolo Jones made headlines when she revealed that she was a virgin. The Olympian constantly points to her faith as the source of her strength in the face of adversity.
Li Yan - Christian Athletes in the Winter Olympics
Although we’ve been focusing mostly on Christian athletes that competed for America, the United States certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on the Christian faith. Li Yan was one of the first competitors in the sport of short track speed skating, an event where she took home the silver medal for her native country of China. This was one of the first times that China was able to win a medal in the Olympic games. After hanging up her skates, Li started coaching for the Slovakians, Austrians, and later the United States. During this tenure she worked with Apolo Ohno, one of the sport’s most famous stars before going back to China as its new coach. For more than a decade, Li has been working with the country of her birth, delivering gold medal after gold medal. Her career on the ice has taken her around the globe and she believes her faith has made her a better coach and leader. Check out her story below in another profile from Athletes in Action.
America has had plenty of hockey talent in the Olympic games, and even some Christian athletes, but it seems like the women haven’t seen as much of the spotlight. This is crazy when you consider that the women’s team has medaled every Winter Olympics since 1998 in Nagano (and even won eight World Championship since 2005). Gisele Marvin was a part of the team winning two silver medals in 2010 and 2014. The former Minnesota Gopher, who also goes by “Gigi,” is far from the only Christian Olympian in the women’s hockey program. Jinelle Siergiej was another component in the 2010 silver medal finish in Vancouver.
These are just a few of the Christian athletes who have competed in the Winter Olympics over the last few years. Only time will tell what new stories and highlights come from the 2018 games in South Korea. We want to express our support for the Christian athletes who will be using their time in PyeongChang and other Olympic sites to spread the name of Jesus everywhere they go.
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