Ancient Olympians vowed three things: (1) I will use no unfair means to secure victory; (2) I have trained for ten months; and (3) I promise to do my best and not to quit. Surely everyone would do well to live by such disciplined goals. Perhaps that is why every four years, we all take some time out to watch with awe as modern Olympians compete: We watch, and are challenged to persevere in running the race ourselves.
Those who know Christ can get additional enjoyment watching, in a sense, the team within the team. WORLD has compiled, from reports given us, a partial list of this year's Olympians who have made public confessions of faith in Christ.
Remember Eric Liddel, the Scot in the movie Chariots of Fire who refused to run on Sunday? Meet Jonathan Edwards, a modern-day British track-and-field star who for years kept the same observance. After a miserable, medal-less 1992 performance in Barcelona, Mr. Edwards has re-established himself as the world-record-holding triple jumper and enters Atlanta as Britain's greatest hope for a track-and-field medal. In recent years, Mr. Edwards's convictions about competing on Sunday have changed, but his life with Christ remains strong, as does the respect others have for this father of two.
You likely saw Michael Marsh sprint past fellow Christian Carl Lewis in the men's 200-meter at Barcelona in 1992 to win his first gold medal; then he ran the opening leg of the U.S. men's 400-meter relay team, helping to set a new world record at 37.40 and securing a second gold medal. Little did many people know, however, that Mr. Marsh credits his sudden 1992 success to having moved training venues from Los Angeles to Houston, where he acquired some new training partners, including Mr. Lewis and Leroy Burrell. The three, all Christians, have competed with each other while also offering mutual encouragement.
Carl Lewis is, well, Carl Lewis. He has already done what no other track man ever has: qualified to compete in his fifth-straight Olympics in the long jump. He has set several sprinting world records and already owns six gold medals: three in the long jump, one in the 200 meters, one in the 400-meter relay, and one in another event. Mr. Lewis has been in Atlanta prior to the Olympics speaking at various warm-up events about his faith in Christ.
Tara Cross-Battle is known for her devastating spiking ability. A member of the NCAA 1980s All-Decade Team in women's volleyball, and a member of the Olympic bronze-medal-winning U.S. team in Barcelona, her teammates often look to Mrs. Cross-Battle for the competitive spike-make that, spark-to get them on a run. This year, Mrs. Cross-Battle will draw her personal inspiration from the life of her mother-in-law, Maxine Battle, who died a year ago of cancer after for years being an example of godliness. If you have trouble picking out Mrs. Cross-Battle in Atlanta, watch the back of the players' shoes; Mrs. Cross-Battle's will have Philippians 4:13 scribbled on them. (That verse reads, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength.")
They call him "The Admiral." And if anybody understands what it means to wear his country's uniform with pride, it is 7-foot-1-inch David Robinson, all-star center of the San Antonio Spurs, who is returning for his second stint on the U.S. Olympic basketball "Dream Team." Of course, his military nickname stems from the fact that Mr. Robinson attended the Naval Academy and served in active duty. Some might also call him "The Ambassador," since he is such a superb example of godly conduct on and off the court.
Swimmer Josh Davis is ranked first in the world in the 200-meter freestyle. This will be his first Olympic competition, and he says he knows that God is more concerned about his character than any medal. Prior to qualifying for the Olympics, Mr. Davis competed for an Athletes in Action team.
Jennifer Azzi was an All-American guard at Stanford University, leading her 1990 team to the national championship; now she is on America's women's Olympic basketball team. She has played professionally in Europe and on an Athletes in Action team, where her faith in Christ blossomed and grew.
Unlike Ms. Azzi, her teammate Ruthie Bolton-also a guard-grew up in the church, where her father was a pastor; Mrs. Bolton and family members have recorded numerous gospel songs, and she had an album come out in June of this year.
Michele Akers scored five goals in one game as she helped lead her 1991 U.S. soccer team to its first-ever world championship. But by 1993, she was struggling just to make it through each day: Her marriage and career were being tried; she had been diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Virus, better known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Then she turned to Christ and found new perspective, and relief from her chronic fatigue syndrome.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is to female track-and-field what Carl Lewis is to the male ranks. She is a three-time Olympian in the long jump and the heptathlon, and has a 1984 silver medal along with 1988 and 1992 golds to show for it. She and her coach, husband Bob Kersee (also a trainer for the St. Louis Blues NHL hockey team), are known as committed believers.
Becky Dyroen-Lancer, 25, is the best at what she does, though few people might appreciate it. Mrs. Dyroen-Lancer, a four-time world champion, has been called by Swimming World magazine "clearly the best synchronized swimmer on the planet." Raised in a Christian home, she made a profession of faith when she was about seven.
Leah O'Brien-a two-time All American at the University of Arizona-hit .513 for the U.S. 1994 Pan Am Olympic softball team. She drifted from the church in earlier years but has now committed her life to following Christ.
When Edrick Floreal suffered a stress fracture in his heel in 1988 and a herniated disc in 1992, doctors said it was time to retire. But Mr. Floreal is back this year on the Canadian team. He also coaches his wife, LaVonna Martin-Floreal; Mr. Floreal is assistant coach of the Georgia Tech track team.
Three magazines-Sports Spectrum, New Man, and Charisma-contributed information for this report.