Many Olympians returning to their countries from Rio this year did so in triumph, but several have publicly declared glory to God for their talent and success.
‘Jesus did it’. This was the comment made by Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa, after he won gold in the men’s 400m final. According to a report from Reuters, the committed Christian took time to thank God on the track after the race.
He told BBC Sport, ‘The only thing I can do now is to give God praise. I asked the Lord to carry me through the race and I am really just blessed for this opportunity’.
US diving pair David Boudia and Steele Johnson gave thanks to Christ during a TV interview after winning a silver medal, when they finished second to China in the Men’s Synchronised 10m platform dive.
Former drug addict and homeless convict, Australian swimmer Dan Smith also told how his faith in God changed his life. Although he and his teammates came fourth in the 4x200m freestyle relay in Rio, narrowly missing out on bronze, he told sports media organisation Passion for Sport that he was still grateful for what God has done for him.
He said, ‘It’s taught me a lot: to be grateful and to appreciate that I am here, alive, healthy, fit and living a good life.
‘So for me, that is what the Lord has been doing in me. When I became a Christian I came back to the sport. I’ve had to really work on my character, and be satisfied and know that gold medals and winning and all that kind of stuff isn’t who you are. Swimming is just what I do. I’m a vessel of the Holy Spirit’.
Meanwhile, Athletes in Action has produced a 30-minute film highlighting testimonies of other Christian athletes and coaches. These include Brazilian Paralympic swimming champion and Laureus award winner Daniel Dias, who said, ‘Through these achievements I am finally beginning to understand why God made me this way. All of these achievements will fade away, but the love of Christ will never fade away’.
It was not only on the field or in the water; behind the scenes, Christians were at work, such as believer Professor Stuart Burgess of Bristol University, who was part of a team of experts from the department of mechanical engineering.
They developed one of the world’s most accurate test rigs for measuring the efficiency of bicycle chain transmissions, using weights and pendulums to ensure the maximum effectiveness and balance of Britain’s track and BMX bikes.
In a video with BBC’s Points West, Prof. Burgess said: ‘Testing is so important, as it could be the difference between a gold and a silver, or a gold and no medal at all, because the margins are so fine in the Olympics’.