The Olympics have been over for four days now, and I don’t know about you, but I already miss them. For two weeks, much to the disdain of my wife, it was the same routine – come home from work and turn on the Olympics. I was not only rooting for Team USA and amazed by the physical strength, endurance and perseverance of these athletes, but I also noticed that these Olympics had a special trend – the faith stories as well as the Christian faith of the athletes.
One big reason for this might be the amazing story of Michael Phelps. If you haven’t heard the story by now Michael Phelps, arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time, in 2014 had a moment in his life when he hit “rock bottom” after getting arrested for a DWI. He had all the fame, the fortune but he was still empty inside. He told ESPN in an interview, “I had no self-esteem. No self-worth. I thought the world would just be better off without me. I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life.”After checking into rehab, a friend, former Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis, gave him the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and it changed his life. Phelps said in an interview that the book “turned me into believing that there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet.”
A second trend was the articles mentioning the Catholic faith of some of the most successful Olympic Athletes. Simone Biles who has taken the gymnastics world by storm and won four gold medals in Rio was described as attending Mass weekly at her home parish in Spring, Texas (also the home of yours truly before moving to Connecticut). In an interview with US Weekly, she recalls going through her gym bag and pulling out a rosary: “My mom, Nellie, got me a rosary at church. I don’t use it to pray before a competition. I’ll just pray normally to myself, but I have it there in case.” Katie Ledecky who dominated the women swimming competition by winning 4 gold medals and breaking two world records talked about her Catholic education and faith in an interview with the Catholic Standard: “My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective.”
In a world which tells us that we have to put our success and career goals before all else, here are three of the most successful American athletes who are not afraid to share their faith. You add this in with the frequent aerial shots of the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio and I would say we just finished the “Christian Olympics.”