PYEONGCHANG – “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” – I Corinthians 9:25
Thousands of athletes from around the world are competing in the global spotlight of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. All of them have high hopes. For many, their dream is to return home with an Olympic medal. But there are others whose first desire is to represent Christ and bring honor to His name.
Typically, news stories about Christians who are Olympic athletes focus on American athletes, but being a Christian and being an American are two different things. What is more, not all who are representing Christ are athletes.
The Word in Action
Athletes in Action is one of several groups that have been sending Bible to South Korea specifically for the Olympics. AIA has shipped 16,000 Bibles in preparation for the games. The Bibles are being distributed in and around the two Olympic Villages. Other copies have been given to local churches for distribution.
Meanwhile, experienced AIA chaplains will hold worship services, prayer meetings, and personal counseling sessions with individuals and groups of athletes competing in the games. Providing consolation for athletes who experienced disappointing performances often creates an opportunity to explain the love of Christ by grace alone.
The Athletes in Action
Not many athletes from Nigeria compete in the Winter Olympics, but at least two Christians are competing for Nigeria in bobsled and skeleton. In fact, having spent 10 years unsuccessfully trying to qualify for Summer Olympics, Simidele Adeagbo is the first African woman to compete in the skeleton at a Winter Olympics. How did she do it? “Faith is most important because faith made this possible.”
Seun Adigun is a member of the first-ever Nigerian Olympic bobsled team. While training, she has also earned a master’s degree in exercise and health sciences and a doctorate in chiropractic. How did she do it? “I honestly only have the one answer: God.” She attributes the fearlessness and selflessness that comes with faith as the keys to her success.
Kim So-hee will be skiing in and representing her home country of South Korea. She makes prayer a daily part of her life and her sport. Her desire is “to spread the Gospel through sports.” She aspires to become a future member of the International Olympic Committee.
Shane Doan will be playing hockey for Team Canada following 21 years in the NHL. He learned to play the game while growing up at a Christian camp operated by his parents. He “decided that even if I score no more goals for the rest of my career, God is still working for the good of those who love Him and seek His purposes.
Christian Olympians from America
Kelly Clark will compete for the fifth time in snowboarding on a board that says “Jesus, I cannot hide my love.” She described Olympic athletics as “an industry where faith is very foreign, and it’s very counter-cultural.”
Elana Meyers Taylor is already a medal winner in bobsledding. This year, her husband and trainer, Nic Taylor, will accompany her. He is also an alternate for the men’s bobsled team. Their pastor describes Nic as “the perfect picture of a husband loving his wife like Christ loved the church.”
Maame Bincy will represent the USA in speedskating but is a native of Ghana. She unashamedly credits the Lord for putting her where she is today.
This will be the fourth Winter Olympics for Katie Uhlaender. In 2014 she missed a bronze medal by four-hundredths of a second. She noted that “To be a good Christian I have to focus on what I can control and set the example.”
Nichole Hensley is a goaltender on the 2018 USA Women’s Hockey Team. She is noted for writing Bible verses on her goalie mask. Referring to the game, she said, “My faith has calmed me down . . . and helped me to realize, too, that the result is not necessarily the most important thing.”
David Wise is the Sochi gold medal winner in freestyle skiing halfpipe, but he has had to battle with a label pinned on him in the last Olympics when NBC News described his focus on faith and family as an alternative lifestyle. “The fact that God is in control of my life . . . takes pressure off me.”
Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim are USA figure pairs skaters. They teamed up differently, marrying in 2016. Three abdominal surgeries since their wedding have made a comeback difficult, but Alexa has said that it has helped to grow her faith in God by shifting her focus off of herself and onto the Lord. The Knierims are the only US pairs figure skaters at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
This list is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. The news is that these athletes do not see the Olympics as a secular event. Rather, they represent Christ in all that they do.
- Beliefnet, 7 Athletes to Watch at the 2018 Winter Olympics
- Christianity Today, Giving God the (Olympic) Glory: Christian Athletes to Watch in PyeongChang
- Church Leaders, Here Are the Christian Athletes to Watch at the Olympics
- International Bible Society, God’s Word is Going to the 2018 Winter Olympics in a Big Way