Olympic fever is taking over the world. After the opening ceremonies Friday, August 5, people from all over creation have been fixed on the games in Rio. As competition heats up and medals are awarded, the backstories of some of these incredible athletes come to light, touching the hearts of millions.
Meet 5 of these strong, fierce competitors who are also believers and witnesses for Jesus Christ.
David Boudia and Steele Johnson
After winning the silver medal for the 10mm diving event on Monday night, both Boudia and Johnson were not shy about sharing how their faith in Jesus helped them with the pressure of the event and reminded them where their identities lie.
“It’s just an identity crisis. When my mind is on this [diving], and I’m thinking I’m defined by this, then my mind goes crazy. But we both know that our identity is in Christ, and we’re thankful for this opportunity to be able to dive in front of Brazil and in front of the United States. It’s been an absolutely thrilling moment for us,” David Boudia shared with NBC.
Johnson agreed, adding, “the fact that I was going into this event knowing that my identity is rooted in Christ and not what the result of this competition it just gave me peace … and it let me enjoy the contest.”
You couldn’t go anywhere in 2012 without seeing Gabby Douglas’s dazzling smile or hearing about her absolute dominance in gymnastics. She led Team USA to gold in the 2012 games in London and is back again, competing in the Team all-around competition. When asked how it felt to win the gold in 2012, she responded, “It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me. Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me.”
At age 6, Maya DiRado’s dad put a swim cap on her head with the Stanford logo and her last name written on the side. For much of DiRado’s swimming career, she has hit mark after mark. However, when she missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympic games, DiRado considered retirement from the sport. But with encouragement and training, she decided to try out for Rio and ended up winning her first Olympic medal.
But it’s not the glory of swimming that makes Maya DiRado so grounded, (she is retiring after the 2016 games to move to Atlanta with her husband), it’s her faith in the Lord. ““I don’t think God really cares about my swimming very much,” Maya said. “This is not my end purpose, to make the Olympic team. My God is powerful and in control, but I don’t think he cares whether I win. It’s interesting theology you can get into when it’s a God of victory in your sport,” she told Yahoo Sports.
It is amazing to watch Simone Biles launch herself through the air, whether on vault or the balance beam. She has won three straight world championships and is expected to win several medals at the games in Rio this year. She is the face of determination and Team USA Women’s Gymnastics.
Her personal story is just as dynamic. Adopted by her grandparents at six years old along with her younger sister, Biles grew up in a home full of faith, love, and encouragement. “My mom, Nellie, got me a rosary at church,” she told US Magazine. “I don’t use it to pray before a competition. I’ll just pray normally to myself, but I have it there in case.”