With a year’s postponement of the Summer Olympics due to the Covid Pandemic, and all the political controversy and LGBTQ issues, and the banning of spectators on site, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games lost a lot of their attraction to many. There were only 15.5 million “Prime Time” viewers compared to 26.7 million for the Rio Games in 2016. It is hard to cheer for athletes representing our country who don’t seem to like our country and who refuse to even stand for our national anthem.
What a shame that these few athletes gave us a bad taste for watching the Olympic competition, because many of our athletes were very excited about having the privilege of competing for the United States and proudly wore the U.S.A. uniform and, if winning a medal, also proudly displayed the Stars and Stripes representing their country. A number of these athletes are Christians and used their achievements as a platform of ministry for Jesus Christ as well.
One of the most inspirational moments was watching the interview (that went viral) with Tamyra Mensah-Stock, the first African American to win gold for the U.S. in wrestling. She was just bouncing all around during her interview and stated, “I love representing the U.S….I love living here. I love it! And I’m so happy to get to represent the USA.” How refreshing! Her testimony of God’s faithfulness in an interview with Faithwire before the Olympics put it all in perspective as she said, “It’s by the grace of God I’m even able to move my feet. I just leave it all in His hands and I pray that all the practices my coaches put me through pay off, and every single time, it does.”
Sydney McLauglin, in her interview after winning the gold medal in the 400m hurdles, said: “What I have in Christ is far greater than what I have or don’t have in life. I pray my journey may be a clear depiction of submission and obedience to God.”
Another born-again female runner, Athing Mu, shocked the world at the Tokyo Olympics by winning gold in the 800m as a 19-year old. She’s also the first U.S. woman to win the event since 1968. In an interview prior to the Olympics, she said, “As a follower of Christ, our main goal is to live in the image of Jesus.” She not only represented our country well, she was an ambassador for Jesus Christ (II Cor. 5:20).
And then there is the amazing story of American 35-year-old 400m sprinter Allyson Felix who, competing in her fourth Olympics, earned the distinction of becoming the most decorated U.S. track star in history, adding her 10th medal ( a bronze in the 400m), and her 11th medal (gold in the 4x400m relay) to surpass Carl Lewis with his 10 Olympic medals. Allyson (nicknamed “Chicken Legs” by her teammates at Los Angeles Baptist High School) almost didn’t live to participate in this summer’s Olympic games in Tokyo. She had already won six gold medals and three silvers before becoming pregnant in 2018. Faced with a choice between her career and her child, Allyson endured a challenging pregnancy that nearly took her life and that of her unborn baby girl (Camryn) who was delivered at 32 weeks by emergency C-section. Felix lost 70% of her endorsement pay with Nike after becoming pregnant. Nike wanted her to get an abortion to preserve her career, but Allyson, as a follower of Jesus Christ, chose life, and the stress of juggling motherhood and being an Olympic sprinter over an abortion. I’d say God honored and rewarded her for her decision as she displayed a couple weeks ago in Tokyo. Her smile during the interviews was contagious!
There were athletes from other countries as well who also used their “Olympic platform” to exalt their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. After defeating New Zealand for the gold in men’s rugby, the Fiji national team sang a hymn: “We have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of the Lord, we have overcome.” What a wonderful reminder that whether we win in rugby or anything else, the most certain thing in the world is what Jesus Christ has done for us, not what we will ever do. To God be the glory!!
Just thought you might be encouraged to hear some of the positive things that came out of the recent Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Praise God for those who used their “golden opportunities” to express their real reason for living. They have something which far supersedes any Olympic medals they may have received. May their tribe increase!
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18,19).
(Note: Some of the above information came from John Stonestreet of Prison Fellowship Ministries).