Olympic Fever – Christians at the 2012 Olympics

I Love the Olympics.  I was born in an Olympic year , just a couple of days before the events kicked off – and the Olympics were happening in Canada (my home and native land).  And s0 I have always been interested in these games that bring the world together.  Now Canada, during those 1976 Olympics, were (and still are) the only host country to fail to win a single gold medal at the Olympic games that they host, and so while I do, naturally, cheer on all members of Team Canada, I also enjoy learning about the lives of other competitors and finding that I want them to be successful too.  That being said, I will, over the course of the Olympics, be sharing some collections of stories that I find about Christians who will be competing in London during these next 2 weeks.

Let’s start with these stories.

First we have Brittany Viola– U.S.A. Platform diver.

Brittany Viola

Let’s start off with a local connection (local to Minneapolis – where I live now that is).  Brittany Viola is the daughter of former major league pitcher Frank Viola.  He was a long time Twin, Cy Young winner in 1988 and the MVP of the 1987  world series.  His daughter will compete in London this summer and as you can read in this story from Athletes in Action, she is looking forward to her Olympic experience.  She has battled injury and an eating disorder.  As she was getting treatment for the latter, a staff member at the center where she was getting help told her that ultimate healing would come from a relationship with God.

 

David Boudia

Next, we have another diver – David Boudia – USA Platform and Synchro Diver.

This will be David’s second Olympic Experience having also competed in Beijing in 2008.  He was fresh out of high school and living life for himself.  He was into the party scene as College started and feeling empty and unfulfilled in life.  A time of hard partying left him calling out for help.  His coach at Purdue, along with the coach’s wife told him about Jesus and His offer of salvation.  Boudia accepted Christ and now faces the joys and struggles of life with this new found perspective.  You can read his story, as told by Athletes in Action, here. 

 

Zambia sprinter Gerald Phiri

Gerald Phiri – Zambia – sprinter (100m  & 200m)

Born in Zambia, and living in the Chicagoland area, Phiri has also spent time in South Africa and the UK as his father, Huggins, is a pastor and church planter and has journeyed to these places as he follows God’s leading.  Phiri is competing for Zambia and hoping to put his homeland in the spotlight in London, but ultimately as you can read in this story, from Athletes in Action, that running to honor God is the reason behind his racing.

Phiri  has known some success in his American Collegiate career and he knows that training and discipline are vital to that success.  They are also vital to the Christian walk.  As is a short memory.  He talks about the need to forget when you have a bad race and focus on the next one.  The same thing happens when we mess up in our Christian walk.  Satan is always going to be trying to remind us of the things we’ve done and tell us that we are not good enough.  We need to ignore that, get back on track and refocus on Christ.

 

Elodie Li Yuk Lo - Mauritius Beach Volley Ball Player

Elodie Li Yuk Lo – Mauritius – Beach Volleyball

Growing up in Toronto Canada, where she moved at age 6, Elodie Li Yuk Lo loved swimming and softball dreamed of competing in the Olympics – likely in the pool.  At age 12, she took up the sport of Volleyball, and was introduced to beach volleyball by a coach who recommended that players take it up so they could keep their skills sharp in the off-season.  So she started playing beach volleyball, and took to it strongly.  In 2006, hoping to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, she went to Mauritius looking for a partner, but came back empty.  Missing out on Beijing, she kept looking and eventually found a partner in Natacha Rigobert -a Mauritius native living in France.  They teamed up, and practiced together, competed together and qualified for London by winning the African Championship in Rwanda in May.  She had found that sports often conflicted with going to church, but that with they didn’t have to be exclusive activities.  She could worship God and build her faith while on the volleyball court.  You can read her story here.

I found all of these stories through Athletes in Action – I really appreciate the work AIA does and the role they play in the lives of young athletes and the dreams that they have.  I thank them for sharing these stories.  here are some other resources that I will use as well. More to come in the coming days.  Come back and check.

Living for God in a “major” way – Christians in the PGA – Stewart Cink

Well it is British Open time – the third major of the golf year, and this time around, the competition is on at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s Golf Course in Lancashire, England.  As we reach the weekend, and the cut has been made, lots of big names have missed the cut.  Included among the “casualties of the cut” was Stewart Cink, the subject of today’s post.

PGA golfer Stewart Cink

Cink is originally from Alabama, and has been part of the PGA tour since 1995.  In that time, he has posted 6 wins, including the 2009 British Open.  You can link here to the the highlights of his win there.  It is an interesting story – he won, although 90+% of the gallery (and probably even the world) was rooting against him, simply because he was going against 59 year old Tom Watson, who over the course of the week had won the hearts of the general spectator with his outstanding (and unexpected) run at the title.  As he started dropping shots on the closing holes, the possibility of a playoff grew.

Cink wins the Claret Jug in 2009

And when it  Cink won, people were happy enough for him.  It was easy to find articles like this one that talk about how they are glad, after the fact, that Cink won, but they were cheering for Watson during the playoff.  It also shares the story of how Cink came to decide that he needed Christ in his life.  This time around, as mentioned, he didn’t make it to weekend play, and if you are interested in knowing all about it,  check out his Twitter account – He is very active and has over a million followers.  He shares a lot about what he is doing and about life in general.  As you can read in this article from Sports Spectrum, Cink wants to live a life that draws people in to pick his brain – to “live a life that demands an explanation”.

It’s working.  Check this story about when his integrity was questioned, and how he chose not to act the way he wanted to, but rather to let Christ guide his reaction or check out this blog post from someone whose attention was captured by the way he thanked God after winning the British Open.  The writer mentioned that it seemed a much more refreshing to hear how Cink referenced his faith over how some others do.

The other reason that I chose to feature Cink this week is that he is the one that put together the weekly devotional thoughts on Ben Crane’s website.  Click the link, then click on British Open & True South Classic.

Good thoughts and reflections from Cink.  This wasn’t his year at the British Open, but he will take it all in stride and keep drawing others to Christ.

And the winner is… Webb Simpson – U.S. Open Champion!

What a great tournament!  And what a tough course.  For only the third time in the last 35 years that the champion’s score was above par.  That is not an indication of the skill level of the players.  It is an indictment on the difficulty of the Olympic Course in San Francisco, which hosted the tournament for the 5th time.  Of the five, only 2 champions have won with scores under par, one even and 2 over par.

As I watched the rounds go by, and the scores climb up, I imagined what score I would piece together on such a tough course – It may take me 4 days to complete 1 round! So on Sunday, I enjoyed a couple drinks of Arnold Palmer half and half, then watched Webb Simpson win the title, unaware of the connection between the two.

the 2012 U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson

There sure was a lot of intrigue and entertainment value in the rounds that I watched (Saturday and Sunday).  There is a lot of talk about how no one would be interested by the end as Tiger Woods fell out of competition.  I found myself rooting for Michael Thompson, who finished third, largely because he was proclaimed a “surprise leader who would likely not be around at the end” on Friday – and because I blogged about him earlier in the week, and I was also excited to see  Simpson, another golfer I blogged about a month ago, come back into the picture, and eventually, of course, claim the title.  You can read the posts I wrote about them by clicking on their names above

With Webb Simpson winning this time around, and Bubba Watson winning the Master’s a couple months ago, it is exciting to see these up and coming golfers making a name for themselves, and using their budding fame and success to share the importance God plays in their lives.  I can’t wait until the British Open to see what happens!  Tune back in then to find more stories of faith on the PGA tour.

And a final quick update on the others I blogged about this week.  K.J. Choi had a great final round shooting a -1 to climb to a tie for 15th,  Kevin Streelman shot a +5 on the day to finish in 60th and Michael Thompson turned things back around and finished tied for 2nd, 1 shot back with the low round of the day (-3).

 

Living for God in a “Major” Way – Christians in the PGA – Kevin Streelman

Kevin Streelman

We have reached the weekend at the U.S. Open – and the Olympic Course in the San Fran area is proving to be very challenging for the best golfers in the world.  158 golfers have played 2 rounds and exactly 3 of them sit with scores under par – and all three are at -1.  The cut sits at +8 and right there at the cut line is Kevin Streelman – our subject for the day.

Streelman has been on the PGA tour in 2007.  Since then, he has finished 3rd on three separate occasions.  Although he did with the 2009 Kodak Challenge(a cool sounding idea that didn’t really catch

Streelman, with wife Courtney, upon winning the Kodak Challenge

on, and now is no more).  He  currently sits at 149 in the world golf rankings.  The odds are very strongly against the 2012 U.S. Open being his first PGA tournament win, but he will play through the weekend and see if he can improve from his position (currently T59th).

But there is more to Streelman’s game than concern about results.  The Chicago-land native and Duke University alumni uses golf as a platform to share his faith with others, and has taken a special interest in youth who are passionate about the game of golf.  As you can read in this discussion Streelman had with Chad Bonham at Inspiring Athletes, Streelman noticed that the headlines from the pro golf circuit in 2010 was filled with a lot of negativity.  He wanted to create something positive and so he came up with the idea of “GAMEDAY” which Fellowship of Christian Athletes got behind.  Gameday provides an opportunity for junior golfers to meet and interact with pros and allow those pros an opportunity to share their faith.

Streelman also has a chance in this interview to talk about integrity on the golf course.  Something came to me as I was reading this article.  Golf is the only sport that I could immediately think of where the onus is on the player to police him/herself.  You never see a basketball player calling him/herself for traveling, or for a foul.  A hockey player never stops play to go to the penalty box for a hook or a high stick.  Baseball players never turn to an ump on a close pitch or a bang-bang play and say “Nah – he got me!”  It just doesn’t happen.  In fact, there are

FCA Gameday = a Streelman Idea

many opportunities to cover up your guilt and hope that you “get away with it”.  Golf doesn’t work that way.  In many cases, infractions are to be noticed and reported by the golfer him/herself.  We are prone to the same thing in our life.  We are good at justifying and trying to “get away” with our missteps and errors.  I can’t imagine how this could work in any other sport, but in golf, that’s the way it is.  I pray that we would all be so honest with ourselves and with others.  When we make a mistake, or mess up – that we would own up to it, and learn from it.  Such an important lesson. Also, another great golf term that fits as an analogy for our Christian walk is the Mulligan.  You can check out the Mulligan Society blog by FCA here.  A Mulligan is a redo, as if the first shot, that went so drastically awry didn’t happen.  God offers us many mulligans.  A redo on our life – we can’t mess up so much that all hope is lost.  There may be consequences for our mess up, but God always offers us forgiveness.

Streelman is looking for that first PGA tournament win, and I hope it comes for him soon.  He has shown a great perspective on the earnings that he wins, and on the trophies and standings.  For his PGA career, these things hold some importance but for the grand scheme of life, they matter little. I appreciate the perspective and challenge from Streelman.  I trust and pray that God will afford him more opportunities to share what a relationship with Jesus is all about and wish him success, in whatever form that takes.

Living for God in a “Major” Way – Christians in the PGA – Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson Leads the US Open by 3 strokes after day One

Day one is in the books at the U.S. Open being played this year at the Olympic Club in San Francisco CA.  Interest is high because Tiger is prowling.  He is currently in second, 3 shots behind the day one leader – Michael Thompson. He was the 2 time High School player of the year in High School.  He then went to New Orleans where he played at Tulane University until  Hurricane Katrina forced the team to disband.  He transferred to University of Alabama where he was the 2008 SEC player of the year.  After college, he turned pro, and was named the 2010 player of the year in the Hooters tour, where he won 2 events and later, would earn his tour card. He joined the PGA for the 2011 season.  His best ever showing at a Major tournament was in 2008  where he was the low amateur (shooting a +9) tied for 28th.

For Thompson, the cushion that he has after day one is nice, but there is still a lot of

Thompson and wife Rachel

golf to go.  Last season, though, he had an “epiphany” as the website ThompsonTides.com says (it is a website that tracks Thompson’s pro career).  In November of 2011, the website put together their top 5 moments from Thompson’s season last year.  #4 was a tweet that Thompson shared about “better golf to come”.  The reason for the change in his game – a renewed focus on God and a surrendering of control to Him.   With this focus, he can be found participating in Bible Studies or actively supporting  College Golf Fellowship, and a game that is turning some heads.   If you want a little more insight on Michael Thompson and his life and  faith, you can also check out his wife’s blog.

Their is still 54 holes to go (barring a playoff) to crown a champion, but Michael Thompson is in a good spot after round 1.  I’d like to see him do well.  We do have many things  in common – a relationship with God, blogging wives, time spent living in New Orleans, and  we even cheer on the same NFL team (geaux Saints).  Tune in again tomorrow for another feature on a golfer at the U.S. Open, and an update on where the golfers I blog about this week find themselves on the leaderboard.

(After round 1, K.J. Choi is tied for 40th – in good shape for the cut, but with some work to do as he is 7 shots back)