by Roma Maitlall
Whether they win or lose in the field, court or arenas, these Olympic medalists are ultimately winning in life.
After winning gold in the women’s freestyle 68-kilogram final at the Tokyo Games, American wrestler Tamyra Mensah-Stock, 28, joyously attributed her success to God.
“It’s by the grace of God I’m even able to move my feet,” said a breathless Mensah-Stock, who had wrapped herself in an American flag. “I just leave it in His hands, and I pray that all the practice . . . my coaches put me through pays off. And, every single time, it does.”
Mensah-Stock almost gave up wrestling after her dad died in a car accident on his way home from one of her matches in high school. She wanted to quit until she realized that her dad, her biggest supporter, would’ve wanted her to keep on going.
“[My dad] would’ve been the loudest one here,” Mensah-Stock said in tears. “He would’ve been so proud.”
Following her victory, Mensah-Stock became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling for Team USA.
On Wednesday, July 28, the Fijian men’s rugby team made history by winning their nation’s second ever Olympic medal. After securing gold in the final match, the team was seen huddling together and praising God in song.
Titled “E Da Sa Qaqa,” meaning “We Have Overcome,” the song includes lyrics that credits God for their victory.
Wednesday’s win was certainly a huge victory for the men, who were forced to spend months training in Australia—away from their family—in preparation for the Tokyo Games. Fiji has been battling a severe Covid-19 outbreak and, in order to reduce the spread of the virus, the men were not permitted to return home.
In an emotional video taken immediately after the gold-winning performance, the men were shown standing in a circle, pointing heavenward and singing the beautiful Fijian hymn. Without a doubt, they—and the nation of Fiji (whose government declared July 28, the day of the team’s victory, a national holiday)—are deeply grateful that God rewarded them for their hard work and sacrifice.
A day after winning gold in the 400-meter hurdles and breaking her own world record, American track star Sydney McLaughlin, 22, put up a lengthy post on Instagram giving glory to God.
“What an honor it is to be able to represent not only my country, but also the kingdom of God,” she wrote. “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 . . . obedience to God . . . And He has prepared me for a moment such as this. That I may use the gifts He has given me to point all the attention back to Him.”
McLaughlin has certainly pointed all the attention back to God throughout her career by constantly proclaiming her belief in Jesus to her over one million fans on social media.
In an interview with the TODAY show, McLaughlin declared that “after a year of so much uncertainty, I really found stability in Christ and in my faith.” The stability McLaughlin is likely referring to dates back to her baptism in November 2020 when she wrote on Instagram:
“Running was instilled in me at such a young age . . . But why did it take me so long to realize that I had been running the wrong way? . . . Once I accepted You as my coach, as my number one supporter, and as a part of my team, I realized that I wasn’t running alone. You helped guide my feet in the right direction . . . With You by my side, guiding my steps, there is no race I can’t win.”
And, sure enough, McLaughlin won both of the races set before her in Tokyo, including the women’s 4x400-meter relay on Saturday, August 7—the day of her 22nd birthday.
Less than two months after turning 19, Athing Mu—the daughter of South Sudanese refugees—became an Olympic champion, winning America’s first 800-meter gold medal in 53 years and simultaneously setting an American record.
“God definitely took the battle for this one!” she tweeted immediately after her win. “Thank you, Lord!”
Mu has been outspoken about her Christian faith throughout the Tokyo Games, sharing recently on Instagram her awareness of God’s hand over her life.
“Every day I’m gaining a better understanding of what it is that God has done and is doing for me,” she wrote beside a photo of her proudly posing with her gold medal. “I would say I’m ‘astonished,’ but the truth is I KNOW God’s power.”
Mu, whose parents fled Sudan over 20 years ago for a better life for their family, admitted in the post that she nearly gave up running “by trying to create my own walk of life instead of enduring God’s plan.”
Reflecting on her struggles in the past year, she concluded: “I was missing two important things in my life, FAITH and CONFIDENCE. Today and forever, I’ll have both.”
Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, 30, made history during the Tokyo Games by becoming Philippines’ first ever Olympic gold medalist.
Crediting God for her historic victory, Diaz was seen pointing toward heaven and making the sign of the cross while receiving her gold medal.
“Thank You, Lord!” repeatedly exclaimed the Olympian from the podium.
A devout Catholic Christian, Diaz said in an interview that the “Our Lady’s Miraculous Medal” that she wore while competing “is a sign of . . . my faith [in] Mama Mary and Jesus Christ” and was a gift from friends who had been praying for her since before she left for the Tokyo Games.
Shortly after winning bronze in the women’s freestyle 57-kilogram final, American wrestler Helen Maroulis, 29, tweeted: “And Jesus said to him ‘anything is possible to him who believes’ (Mark 9:23). Never lose faith, never give up.”
Jesus’ words in Mark 9:23 are undoubtedly meaningful to Maroulis, who had been forced to retire from professional wrestling in 2019—just three years after becoming the first female American wrestler to ever win an Olympic gold medal.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury and a PTSD diagnosis, Maroulis was convinced that her blossoming career was over until she felt God calling her back to the sport in the summer of 2020.
Following months of healing and training, the two-time Olympic medalist managed to beat the odds and qualify for the U.S. Olympic wrestling team headed to the Tokyo, where she would ultimately win a bronze medal.
The Olympian’s recent victory is, above all, a powerful testimony to God’s ability to do the impossible.
Five years after shockingly failing to qualify for Rio Games, American hurdler Kendra “Keni” Harrison, 28, became an Olympic silver medalist at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“Thank you, Lord, for this gift,” she posted on Instagram after her win in early August, “and I will always glorify you with it.”
Harrison’s faith has allowed her to overcome multiple hardships and struggles throughout her life—including a heart murmur as a child and being put up for adoption.
“I am a walking testimony of how incredible God truly is,” she tweeted shortly after a victory in 2016, where she had set a new world record for the 100-meter hurdles at the London Müller Anniversary Games.
For American wrestler Kyle Snyder, 25, bringing home the silver medal in the men’s 97-kilogram final during the Tokyo Games wasn’t just an individual win, but one that helped bring the American wrestling team’s total 2020 Olympic medal count to nine—higher than any other nation and the highest the team’s achieved since 1984.
Though Snyder was disappointed that he did not win gold, he has stated that, when he loses, he “know[s] that God’s in control.”
“As big as the sport is in my life,” he wrote in June, “wrestling doesn’t define me. God alone defines me. I’m always consistent with my Scripture study and prayer, and during the pandemic I was able to continue to grow and focus on God and hear what He wanted to teach me.”
Snyder’s Twitter bio includes a verse from Deuteronomy 20:1: “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you” (NIV).
After coming in third in the semifinals for track and field in the Tokyo Games, American runner Raevyn Rogers, 24, tweeted: “I made this final for a reason. It’s all according to His plan, and I know it will be revealed.”
Three days later, God revealed His plan to Rogers, who joyously won the bronze medal in the 800-meter dash.
“The journey is never easy,” she tweeted, reflecting on her victory. “But, with God you are able to . . . find light in the process and allow faith to carry you through.”
Rogers often proclaims her faith to her 42,300 followers on Instagram, writing just before the race: “The day is here. It is written. His will shall be done. Godspeed.”
Without a doubt, Rogers’ humble surrender to the will of God allowed her to become an Olympic medalist.
During the Tokyo Games, American sprinter, Allyson Felix, 35, solidified her status as an Olympic legend. After winning bronze in the women’s 400-meter race and helping the U.S. women win gold in the 4x400-meter relay, Felix became the most decorated U.S. track and field Olympian in history.
The Tokyo Games were particularly emotional for the 11-time Olympic medalist, who had been competing in what would be her fifth and final Olympics.
“I’ve experienced the hardest years of my life in this journey,” she wrote on Instagram just days before her debut in Tokyo, “and by God’s grace I’m here.”
Felix, a devout Christian, has indeed endured some difficult challenges throughout her life, including the traumatic birth of her daughter, Camryn, in 2018. Diagnosed with severe preeclampsia, Felix had to undergo an emergency C-section when she was just eight-months pregnant—a surgery that put her life—and the life of her baby—at risk.
After the birth of her daughter, who had to spend a month in the NICU before going home, Felix began to doubt if she would ever be able to run competitively again.
“I just remember thinking, I don’t know if I’m going to get back,” reflected Felix, who had long been aware of the impact pregnancy and childbirth would have on her body. “I don’t know if I can.”
Shockingly, Felix’s performance in the 400-meter race was her fastest performance since 2015—before she gave birth to her daughter. To top it off, no professional female runner has ever run faster at an older age.
Felix’s story is unquestionably a testament of God’s faithfulness and grace.
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