As the world gathers around their television sets this summer to cheer on their favorite athletes at the Olympic games, we often forget about all the training and hard work that the athletes do for years leading up to the competition. Hours upon hours in the gym, often making sacrifices and missing out on school activities and time with family. Some athletes even have to move away from their families to get specialized training. When we interviewed Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas two years ago, she opened up to us about her faith and her training to prepare for the Olympics.
In addition to being the first African-American woman in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion, Gabby Douglas is also the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. As if that weren’t enough, she is also the only American all-around champion to win multiple gold medals in a single Olympic games.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:23-25
Gabby shared with us what role her faith plays in her everyday life and the impact her family has had on her.
“Faith plays a big role in my life and it started when I was very young. My mom introduced us [my siblings and me] to the Bible and about Jesus and it’s been a part of my life for such a long time. It plays a big role in my life and we do Bible studies [together]. If you watch the Olympics’ footage or any footage, you can see my mouth moving, that’s me praying. I always have to pray before a competition or before I’m about to compete. I just pray that I have a good routine and it’s a flowed and safe routine and that all of my skills are just beautiful and exquisite.
I’d definitely have to say my mom raised us well, and my faith also keeps me grounded and humble. I’m really blessed to have such a supportive family and they definitely keep me grounded. I think gymnastics keeps me humble too. In gymnastics you have to be very disciplined and when I start getting cocky and thinking, ‘Yes I can do this! I realize that I start messing up more. So it’s all the different sorts of things that keep my head from being too blown up.”
“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” 2 Timothy 2:4-6
While many people aspire to be a professional or Olympic athlete, few know the training that it requires to even compete, let alone medal on that level. Gabby opened up about her training regimen before the Olympics.
“People don’t see any training, they only see me out on the competition floor where a beautiful masterpiece is displayed a beautiful routine, a beautiful leo [leotard/costume], and makeup. But behind the scenes there is a lot that goes into all of that. I train six days a week. I have Sundays off and I do about four to six hours in the gym depending on what day it is because sometimes my gym schedule is different each day. And man, it’s just intense. A lot of doing it over and over and over again, it’s just challenging in the gym and it’s very tough.
I’ve learned to keep going, even when days are really hard in the gym. When I’m having a really hard day I have to keep pushing through because if I can get through that one day – that hard day- then on the easiest day it’ll be that much easier. I have to keep reminding myself to just keep pushing through.”
Whether you dream of being an Olympic athlete or just enjoy watching the competition, we can all appreciate the needed training. God wants us to have the same discipline in our relationship with Him. Throughout the Bible, our walk with God is likened to the training that an athlete goes through to compete. We pray that God would strengthen your faith this summer!
Who has impacted your faith? Take time this week and thank God for the people that encouraged you in your relationship with Christ. Whether they prayed for you, took you to church or invited you to an outreach, there are many people that have helped us grow in our walk with God. Send them an email, text or hand-written letter expressing your gratitude.
Train like an athlete. From abstaining from certain foods to doing extra training sessions, professional athletes often have to make sacrifices so that they can achieve their end goal. Similarly, God might be challenging you to stop doing some activities and start doing others so that your relationship with Him can be strengthened. Ask Him for strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Persevere! Just like Gabby has to remind herself to keep going, in trials or difficult seasons know that God is there with you. Ask Him for His strength to overcome a situation. Pray that He would send friends to come alongside you to lessen the burden and for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you. As we pray and get into the Word, often times God will give us a different perspective on the situation.