Fellowship of Christian Athletes Following Three Female Olympians Going for Gold
USA Hockey’s Gigi Marvin and Bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor Are Heading Into Big Events, While Snowboarder Kelly Clark Finishes Fifth Olympic Games in Style
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) Magazine this month focuses on several Olympic athletes who are going for gold in PyeongChang while glorifying God at the same time.
The January/February issue of FCA Magazine profiles three strong female Olympians who are also strong in their faith. Among them is USA Hockey’s Gigi Marvin, decorated bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor and trailblazing snowboarder Kelly Clark.
“The first week of the Winter Olympic Games has been so exciting and uplifting—both the sports competition and the athletes’ stories,” said FCA Magazine Editor Clay Meyer. “We have loved watching the athletes who have shared their faith journeys with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and will continue to cheer them on as they represent the USA and use their talents and this international stage to bring glory to Jesus Christ.”
Gigi Marvin and her teammates are in the hunt for the gold medal that has eluded USA women’s hockey since 1998, when women’s hockey first became an Olympic sport. But since then, Canada has taken home gold in the past four Games and the U.S. has settled for silver in what has become one of the best rivalries in the Winter Olympics.
Marvin had the thrilling leadoff goal in the 5-0 win against Finland that advanced the team to the gold-medal game. USA and Canada will face off again Thursday in PyeongChang (11:10 p.m. EST Wednesday), as Marvin and the rest of her team look to bring gold back to the USA.
Marvin writes in the FCA Magazine essay “More Than Medals” that she knew hockey would be part of her life while growing up in “Hockeytown, USA”—Warroad, Minnesota.
“I still remember watching women play hockey in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, and I dreamed I would be able to do the same one day,” Marvin wrote. “I knew early on, though, that it wouldn’t be possible without the support of my family and friends. Fortunately, I was blessed to be part of a terrific family with the best parents who loved and cared for me and my younger brother.
“Sports were important to us, but I’m grateful that church was a non-negotiable aspect of our lives,” she added. “My mom gave me my first Bible and she modeled to me the servant heart of Christ. My parents also helped me understand at a young age that God had given me this amazing talent to play hockey. It was so natural for me, and it was evident it was a gift from Him.”
At the University of Minnesota, Marvin became involved in FCA leadership, all the while playing hockey and loving it.
“But all the success and accolades I’ve experienced haven’t come without trials and setbacks,” Marvin continued. “I’ve been cut from teams. I’ve faced injuries, position changes and uncertainties that, under my own power, I couldn’t have overcome. But God has used each of those points in my life to draw me closer to Him, to teach me what it means in Proverbs 3:5-6: ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.’
“I’m back on the ice, proudly wearing the ‘USA’ across my sweater and representing my country, but my mission is more than winning another medal or championship,” Marvin says. “It’s about sharing Christ and leading others to Him. I know my worth is not found in what I can achieve in this game. Instead, my identity and value is only found in Christ, my Redeemer and Lord.”
Just this morning, bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor made her PyeongChang debut in a big way—by coming in first and second in the first two women’s two-man bobsled heats with her partner, Lauren Gibbs. Taylor and Gibbs were just a fraction of a second behind the German leaders. American Jamie Greubel Poser is also in the mix of the best times. Two more heats continue tomorrow.
Taylor has the unique opportunity to experience the Olympics with her husband and fellow bobsledder Nic Taylor, who is an alternate on the men’s team. FCA’s story titled “Taylor-Made” details how Elana and Nic first met at the U.S. Olympic Training Center after a God-directed phone call to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. Two years later, the engaged couple was baptized together in Lake Placid in October 2013. They were married six months later.
Elana is already a two-time Olympics medalist in two-man women’s bobsleigh, winning the bronze as a brakeman in 2010 and the silver medal as the pilot in 2014. She became the first American—male or female—to medal in both positions and is looking for gold in these Games to complete her “collection.” The men’s two-man bobsled competition is complete, with the USA coming up short for the podium, but the men’s four-man bobsled competition—Nic is a push athlete—begins today with training heats.
“We know God is using our time here for a purpose,” Elana said of training and competing alongside her husband. “It’s exciting to be able to go through this and think about what stories we’ll share with our (future) kids later, and what will come of all of this.”
Growing up in Georgia, Elana Meyers, the daughter of Edward Meyers, a former running back for the Atlanta Falcons, excelled at just about everything in high school—good grades, the editor of the school newspaper, basketball, softball, soccer, and track and field standout. She says she attended church as a child on the “significant dates”—Easter, Christmas and the Sunday nearest her Oct. 10 birthday. Struggles with depression and an eating disorder early in college brought her to a closer relationship with God.
“Christ spoke to me and told me I didn’t have to have control of everything, and He would take control of me,” she said. “Ever since then, I’ve walked this journey with Him.”
Over time, Elana overcame her struggles. She attended FCA events and participated in a life-transforming Bible study through Athletes in Action. After college, and after failing to make the elite U.S. Softball Team, Elana began her bobsled career in 2007, making the national team in her rookie season. Along the way, she remained involved with a Monday night Bible study at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, as well as with the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, through which she met Nic when he transitioned from a track career to bobsledding.
“Being able to do (this) with your best friend—who happens to be your wife—is awesome,” Nic said. “It makes the road a lot easier. Things aren’t nearly as hard as they could be if I was on this path alone.”
Last week, Kelly Clark ended her most recent Olympic competition in her unprecedented fifth Games, coming in just shy of a medal at fourth place in the exciting women’s half-pipe snowboard event. Clark is already a three-time Olympic medalist, but finished just a couple of points from the bronze finisher, American Arielle Gold. But gold medalist Chloe Kim made headlines when she not only wowed the crowds with a near-perfect score but honored her teammate and the woman who paved the way for female snowboarders.
UPI reported that when the U.S. Olympic committee told Kim she could thank a coach with an Order of Ikkos medal, the 17-year-old decided to give it to someone else—Kelly Clark. The award is named for the first recorded coach in ancient Greece.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the young athletes,” Clark told UPI. “I can speak to the women’s half pipe team and one of the most talented groups of young ladies we’ve ever brought to the Games. I definitely know what they’re going through. Look at Chloe. She’s 17. I was 18 when I won my first Olympic [gold] medal. It has been awesome to see her.”
Over a 21-year career, Clark has risen to a legend in the sport. But as she literally soars to incredible heights in the snow, it took getting grounded in her faith for Clark to really know herself. FCA’s story on Kelly Clark, titled “Purpose Found,” details how the snowboarder burst onto the scene and joined the U.S. Snowboarding Team in 2000 at the age of 16. After numerous medals and championships, Clark was still looking for something.
After meeting a Christian at a snowboarding event, Clark explored everything she could about Christianity—reading a devotional Bible, learning how to read Scripture and apply it to her life, studying how Jesus gives people hope through faith and reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. Clark was also baptized, changed her habits when she competed on the road and began living what she calls now a “genuine life” as a Christian.
Clark said she believes her longevity in snowboarding is a result of God’s blessing. Today, even though she is the winningest athlete in snowboarding history, Clark finds her identity beyond the sport and receives the love and acceptance she’d always wanted—from her relationship with Jesus, from other Christians and from non-believers, too. They can all see the change in her.
“They knew how much I partied, what kind of lifestyle I had, and how emotionally volatile I was,” she said. “After time, by watching me, they were able to come to the conclusion that, ‘Wow, this is a really, really great thing for Kelly.’”
Besides these changed ways, Clark demonstrates her commitment to Christ with a message printed on the topside of her snowboard: “Jesus, I cannot hide my love.”
“I love sports because you get to see what you’ve built, from physical to mental to emotional,” she said. “I believe I haven’t hit my potential.”
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