10 Great Christian Olympians Through History

The 2014 Sochi Olympics are a time for so many athletes to strive for and live out their dreams. Dedication, heart, physical endurance and hard work is the life that many individuals have lived in order to achieve their success. The moment when an Olympian first begins the games, then skis, skates or jumps to the podium is filled with overwhelming pride, joy and emotion. What does an athlete think about first? It’s impossible to catch every defining moment of the Olympics, but a major step of faith for Christian athletes is when they thank God. Reaching this moment takes hard work and determination. You don’t just wake up and become a gold medal recipient of faith. Day in and day out, Christian athletes like Gabby Douglas, Kevin Durant, Lolo Jones and Ryan Hall have sweat blood and tears for God. Their moment is God’s moment and they could not be prouder to represent God’s ability.

Who are the 10 greatest Christian Olympians through history? This is a tough call, but here are some of my favorites.

10. Allyson Felix

2012 London Olympics, Sprinting

It’s clear that Allyson Felix’s focus is on giving God the glory. She often quotes scriptures and prayers on Twitter. Her father is an ordained minister and Bible professor. Of her running talents she has said, “For me, my faith is the reason I run. I definitely feel I have this amazing gift that God has blessed me with, and it’s all about using it to the best of my ability.”

9. Bryan Clay

2004 Athens Olympics, Decathlon

2008 London Olympics in Decathlon

Bryan Clay has a strong foundation in Christ and it’s apparent as an athlete, family man, public speaker and through the Bryan Clay Foundation. He still completes, but also focuses on mentoring talented athletic children and helping them develop character. He is also married and a father of three.

8. Michael Chang

1991 Barcelona Olympics, Tennis

Michael Chang dominated the Tennis world in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Upon winning the French Open in 1989, he said, “I thank the Lord Jesus Christ, because without Him, I am nothing.” Since retiring, he has focused on charity work and in 1995 USA Today Weekend named him “Most Caring Athlete”.

7. Laura Wilkinson

2008 Olympics, Diving

2004 Olympics, Diving

2000 Olympics, Diving

Laura Wilkinson started out for a career in gymnastics, but a growth spurt forced her to quit. She began diving at 15 years of age, which was much later than most of her competitors. She rapidly excelled and joined the U.S. national swim team three years later. Today, Laura is a busy mom of three, including an adopted daughter and is a motivational speaker. She also has a program called the 40 Day Journey, which helps individuals on their path to becoming a faithful servant of God.

6. Bobby Jones

1972 Olympics, Basketball

In his day, Bobby Jones was not only one of the best defenders on the court; his actions off the court garnered as much attention. He was extremely polite, did not drink, smoke or swear and has donated to countless charities. Bobby now coaches basketball for middle school boys at Carmel Christian School in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"The Truth": Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

5. Josh Davis

2000 Sydney Olympics, Swimming

1996 Atlanta Olympics, Swimming

Josh Davis was a leader during his swimming career winning five Olympics medals and active in the ministry Fellowship of Christian Athletes, as well as Athletes in Action. He shares his faith at every opportunity and travels around the country as a motivational speaker.

4. Gabby Douglas

2012 Beijing Olympics, Gymnastics

Gabby captured the hearts of many at the 2012 Olympics in Beijing because of how humble she was when winning the team all-around gold medal and individual all-around gold medal. Like Lolo and Allyson, she is open about thanking God for her abilities. She has said, “I love sharing about my faith. God has given me this amazing God-given talent, so I’m going to go out and glorify His name.”

3. Hunter Kemp

2012 London Olympics, Triathlon

2008 Beijing Olympics, Triathlon

2004 Athens Olympics, Triathlon

2000 Sydney Olympics, Triathlon

Hunter Kemp finds his strength from God in all that he does and acknowledges Him in all of his success. He was already an athlete when he realized that something was missing and focused on growing his relationship with God. He is an athlete that is strongly devoted to glorifying God and raising his four boys with wife Val Kemp.

"The Truth": Isaiah 40:31 “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

2. Ryan Hall – Running

2012 London Olympics, Marathon

2008 Beijing Olympics, Marathon

As a runner, I love following Ryan Hall. He is humble and gives God the credit and glory for his ability. In an interview with CNN in 2012 (seen below), Ryan stated that God is his coach. His ultimate coach is God and he follows faith-based coaching. He integrates his faith in his running and is “desperate to know God.” This is a much different approach to training, but has strengthened him on many levels.

1. Lolo Jones

2014 Sochi Olympics, Bobsled

2012 London Olympics, Sprinting

2008 Beijing Olympics, Sprinting

As an outstanding athlete with a host of awards and accomplishments, Lolo Jones is one of my favorite athletes because of her faith. She is an outward Christian who speaks often of her faith on Twitter. Quoted as saying, “Same prayer as last Olympics: to be an inspiration and honor God,” Lolo has supported many charities. She is also a proponent for celibacy before marriage and has shared her journey to saving herself for marriage.

"The Truth": Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Final Thoughts

Kids love watching their favorite athletes and I truly admire the hard work that each of these individuals and many others put toward demonstrating their faith. No athlete will remain competitive forever, but their faith will carry them further than their greatest competitors.

I would love to continue growing this list, so send me your favorite Olympians and why you love them!

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photo credit: Damoses via photopin cc