SPRINTING FOR GOLD: After winning silver in 2004 and 2008, U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix finally wins gold. (Photo by Troy Wayrnen/Newscom)
Another U.S. gold medal and another athlete gives glory to God for it. “I’m so thankful for God to have this opportunity,” Allyson Felix told NBC sports after yesterday’s win in the 200-meter sprint final. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for so long. Praying that His will be done, and not my own. Ready to run my HEART out,” she tweeted before the race.
This was the third 200-meter Olympic medal for Felix. In 2004 and 2008, she came in second to Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown. “The moments that motivated me most were losing on the biggest stage,” Felix said, “and just never forgetting that feeling.”
As usual, Felix’s family was in the stands for her big moment. Her father, Paul, is an ordained minister and an associate professor at The Master’s Seminary in Santa Clarita, California; her mother, Marlean, is an elementary school teacher; and, her brother, Wes, is her agent, USA Today reported. (Her father is also president of Los Angeles Bible Training School).
“Marlean had said the family, as devout Christians, would be able to handle another Olympic disappointment,” USA Today reported. Instead they celebrated. But, in a 2010 interview with the Heart of a Champion foundation, Marlean said the family is most proud of Allyson’s humility. She also said she and her husband made a decision early on in their daughter’s career to travel to all her meets to provide support.
“Her life has played out in the eight lanes of a running track for more than a decade now. There was a dirt oval in southern California when she was a freshman in high school where a part-time track coach was stunned to see her run so gracefully in clunky basketball shoes. There was the ancient surface in Mexico City where she ran so fast in the 200 as a 17-year-old that the entire sprint world took notice. There were stadiums in Finland, Japan and Germany where she won world championship gold medals; and others in Greece and China, where she took Olympic silvers. …She is an elder stateswoman at the age of 26,” Sports Illustrated reported today.
Felix got her start at Los Angeles Baptist High School and came to faith at an early age, she said in a testimony published by RunTheRaceDaily.com. “I’m currently a work in progress and like anyone else I face struggles every day. My goal is to be more Christ-like each and every day and that is not an easy task,” Felix said. “I feel so blessed that God has given me the talent of running. My running is an amazing gift from God and I want to use it to the best of my ability to glorify Him.”
PROUD TO REPRESENT HER COUNTRY: Allyson Felix celebrates her win. (Photo by Troy Wayrnen/Newscom)
Felix “has taught Sunday school and feels a special burden to work with young people,”Decision magazine reported July 26. “Once this year’s Games are over, she said, she’ll get right back into the swing of serving at her church.”
When asked if she has a life verse in an interview with About.com, she said,”Philippians 1:21 is very special to me because it helps to keep my life centered. In every situation in my life I want to be able to say, ‘For me to live is Christ … and nothing else, and to die is gain.’ It really keeps life in perspective for me and encourages me to make sure my priorities are straight.”
U.S. sprinter Carmelita Jeter, who took bronze in the 200 meters, is also a Christian, Chad Bonham reported at Beliefnet. “I wanna thank yall for being so supportive, im on the medal stand AGAIN. #Godbetheglory,” Jeter tweeted last night.
In what Sports Illustrated described as “the best night for Team USA on the track since Aug. 6, 1992,” our athletes won seven medals: three gold (Felix, Brittney Reese in the long jump and Aries Merritt in the 110-meter hurdles), two silver (Lashinda Demus in the 400-meter hurdles and Jason Richardson in the 110-meter hurdles) and two bronze (Jeter and Janay DeLoach in the long jump). Every one of them gave thanks and/or glory to God for their wins. Click the links on their names to see what they said.
What do you think?
Is there a spiritual revival taking place among U.S.A. Track & Field athletes?
Ever since the news media got wind of the fact that 29-year-old U.S. Olympic team hurdler Lolo Jones is a virgin who doesn’t plan to have sex until she gets married, we’ve been eager to find out more about other Olympians of color who have unique stories of faith and perseverance. Now Colorlines has helped us along by introducing us to some other U.S. athletes who are heading to London for the games July 27-August 12. So, we’re spring-boarding off their post with a roundup of seven Olympians we’ll be watching in London.
Let’s start with Jones, who didn’t make Colorlines list. Although she placed third at the U.S. Olympic trials last month and will compete in London, the pressure from her public declaration may have contributed to a less than stellar performance, The Los Angeles Times reported. Although “She could have tried to shrug off her obviously slow start and labored effort during the middle of the race … she turned the occasion into a public self-flaying, though it’s unclear if that sprang from a drive for perfection or a response to the pressure that has mushroomed around her because of her good looks, the inspiring story of her impoverished childhood, and her recent remarks in an HBO interview about her faith and her virginity,” the article said. All we know is that Jones is not afraid to let people know what she believes, and we give her props for that.
Another Christian competing this year is 28-year-old runner Allyson Felix, who tied for third place in the 100 meter dash trials with her training partner Jeneba Tarmoh. Twenty-two year old Tarmoh backed out of a proposed run-off for the Olympic spot, allowing Felix to advance, NBC News reported. Tarmoh will be an alternate. In a statement, Felix said she wanted to earn her spot in the 100 and was disappointed that the run-off did not take place, but either way she was already set to run her main event, the 200 meter sprint.
Felix won silver medals in 2004 and 2008. In a 2008 article, Yahoo Voices quoted her as saying, “My faith is definitely the most important aspect of my life. … My dad is a pastor and I grew up in a very strong Christian home. Our family was very involved in our church. I’m currently a work in progress, and like everyone else I face struggles every day.”
Seventeen-year-old Neal is of African American and Chinese American descent, but only the second Black female to qualify for the U.S. team, according to The New York Times. Her mother told Life and Times that she believes her daughter, who attends Convent of the Sacred Heart school in Manhattan, is “blessed.” After the trials, Mrs. Neal said, “[Lia] wanted to do well and earn her spot. It came true. I just thank God for it.”
First from the Colorlines list is 28-year-old swimmer Cullen Jones. He “has worked extensively to encourage African-American kids to take up swimming through the ‘Make A Splash initiative, according to Clutch magazine. After qualifying for two individual events, Jones said his plan is “not to let the U.S. down,” The Charlotte Observer reported.
For 28-year-old high jumper Chaunté Lowe, juggling a second child with gold-medal dreams is more challenging now that she has a second child, according to The Los Angeles Times. Lowe and her husband Mario have two daughters, aged 14 months and four years. She told The Times that it was easier to “tag-team” parent with one child than it is with two. Now, she says, “I don’t have that freedom to just move around and train the way that I want to. But I’m a parent first and I have to take care of my responsibilities and when there’s extra time I get to go take care of the other stuff.”
Gymnast John Orozco “has his sights set on achieving Olympic gold and using that platform to give his family a better life,” according to Business Insider. Orozco, who is Peurto Rican, grew up in a tough neighborhood in the Bronx, the article said. When he was ten, he and his brothers were assaulted by a gang of guys as they walked home from church. His mother suffers from lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and, in 2007, his father had a stroke in 2007, BI reported, and he gave up college eligibility to go pro in 2011.
Sixteen-year-old gymnast Gabrielle Douglas is called “Flying Squirrel” by U.S. women’s national team coordinator Martha Karolyi because of her “height-defying release moves on the uneven bars,” The Los Angeles Times reported. She too has faced family challenges. Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, told The Times that she “almost went into a depression,” when Gabrielle left their home at 14 to train in Iowa with renowned coach Liang Chow. Hawkins said is finalizing her divorce from with Douglas’ father and that the father in the host home where she lives is “an awesome father figure” for her.
Colorlines featured Native American synchronized swimmer Mary Killman today, and Hawaiian volleyball Tamari Miyashiro and Cuban American gymnast Danell Leyva were also featured in their roundup.
So, which Olympians of color inspire you?