At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, many athletes are using their platforms to share their faith.
Noah Welch, Men’s Ice Hockey — An injury sidelined Welch for a season, which he says God used to expose hockey as an idol in his life.
“I didn’t realize it, but God was using this circumstance to draw me to Him,” Welch said. “He took the biggest opportunity that I’ve ever had in my hockey career, and just took it right away from me. He pretty much smashed the idol of hockey.”
This has given Welch a new perspective heading into the Olympics and his hockey career. “I believe God is sovereign, and I don’t completely understand how He does it, but He does,” Welch said. “I still work hard and with joy, praying that His will be done. And there’s a peace in that.”
Gigi Martin, Women’s Ice Hockey — In her third Olympics, Martin said, “I’m back on the ice, proudly wearing the ‘USA’ across my sweater and representing my country.
“But my mission is more than winning another medal or championship. It’s about sharing Christ and leading others to Him.”
That extends back home in the U.S. as well. Martin runs a summer hockey camp where she seeks to showcase her relationship with Christ to those looking to hone their skating and puck handling skills.
Elisabeth Vathje, Skeleton — “First and foremost, I’m a child of God,” Vathje, a Canadian skeleton racer, told Baptist Press.
“I know that regardless of what I do on the track, I’m still loved by God. And that takes every single pressure away, because I know God is giving me success,” Vathje said. “But I know that even if the success doesn’t come, it doesn’t change the way God sees me and the way I should see Him.”
Katie Uhlaender, Skeleton — Three Olympic games without a medal, including at least one in controversial fashion, have not shaken Uhlaender’s faith.
“Quitting is never an option, so why would I quit on God? He guides me and gives me the strength to keep going,” she said.
Simidele Adeagbo, Skeleton — Adeagbo is the first Nigerian, the first African female and the first black female to compete in the skeleton event in the Olympics.
“We can all go to church and be religious, but I think God has shown me different things over the years to show me that He’s real, what He can do, and what I can do in partnership with Him through faith,” Adeagbo said.
“So it’s been a lifelong journey, but really I would say as I went into college, I’ve started to just grow and mature in my walk.”
Nick Goepper, Slopestyle Skiing — The defending bronze medalist at the 2018 Olympics, Goepper is at a better place than he was immediately following the last winter Olympics.
He sank into depression and drinking, until his family helped him recover. Now his faith and Christian friends in his sport help him stay focused.
“It’s never fun to do it by yourself,” he told Beliefnet. “It’s good to have other people that are on the same path as you. It’s nice to have that in common and be able to converse with them. It’s cool to share that.”
Maame Biney, Speed skating — Freshly turned 18 years old, Biney is the first black woman to qualify for the U.S. speed skating team.
After qualifying, she posted on Instagram and thanked God and her church family for their prayers.
What a weekend!! I’m still in awe that I’m going to the Olympics😱!! I want to start off by thanking God. I am so sure that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for him. If God hadn’t given my dad the strength to wake up, and take me to practice, I wouldn’t be here today. I also want to thank God for giving me the passion to do this🙏🏾. Daddy. I know that I can be a pain at times and not appreciate what you’ve done for me. I do appreciate you. When I’m older I want to be just like you. Wanting to help people, having an amazing heart, being dedicated, and being the best parent ever. Scratching the surface to any one of those things would already make me a great person. Thank you for letting me push myself, Werid, right? But it worked. And b/c of you, I will keep pushing myself. Hehe I love you Daddy❤️ This one is to my host family. Letting me stay with you guys for 6 months have been amazing! You guys have really made me feel like part of your family! Mrs. Melissa, you really have been a mother to me and I will forever love you and keep you close to my heart. Mr. Robert, hehe thank you for those Cafe Rio trips😂And Abby. I’m so happy that I’ve been able to become your big sister. Love you guys always and forever🧡 This one goes out to the whole skating community! You guys have made a huge impact on my dad and I. @dominionspeedskating I love you guys tons! We’ve been through so much together. Tears, laughter, and everything in between. I honestly can’t thank everyone who has helped us b/c there’s SOO many people. You guys know who you are😋much love💛 This last one is to my friends (from school) who got that I couldn't do anything b/c I had a goal. I’m so happy that you guys didn’t abandon me😂. I love how you guys tried to understand. It really means a lot to me💚. Also, to my church family for praying for me for years!! Without your prayers for safe travels and successful competitions I honestly don’t believe that my dad and I would have made it this far💙 It’s been an amazing journey and I can’t wait to see what happens!! Hehe I’m super excited to go to PyeongChang, Korea and represent USA with the rest of the team🇺🇸🤟🏾😆!!
David Wise, Freestyle Skiing — If he’s not on the halfpipe, Wise is probably with his wife leading the youth group at his church in Reno, Nev.
“Everything that I have is a gift from God, and He can take it away when He wants to,” Wise said. “I am surrounded by people who truly love and support me for who I am, not what I do on a pair of skis and not for any level of success I could attain.”
Alexa Scimeca Knierim, Figure Skating — Overcoming a life-threatening illness forced Knierim to relearn how to skate.
“I grew confidence in a different area. In a nutshell, I may have lost a lot of faith in myself, but I grew with my faith in God,” she said.
“I have some insecurities now that I didn’t have before, but I’m able to work on it and move forward because I’ve shifted my focus and my attention to my faith instead of myself.”
She and her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, have already helped the U.S. capture bronze in team figure skating.
Kelly Clark, Snowboarding — At 18, Clark already had an Olympic gold medal, but some faith-filled words caused her to realize she was missing something.
After hearing someone tell a competitor, “It’s all right, God still loves you,” Clark went searching for a Bible at her hotel. When she couldn’t find one, she found the other competitor and said, “I think you might be a Christian and I think you need to tell me about God.”
Clark, now 34, says that changed her life. “Through my relationship with God I learned who I was, and was comfortable in who I was. But I’ll tell you, I’ve never had more fun snowboarding, and I’ve never been more free.”
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.