RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Christian Examiner) – U.S. Track & Field athlete Allyson Felix will compete in several races next week in the Rio Olympics and, while she hopes to win the gold, she's more interested in winning the crown of life.
Felix told the L.A. Times last week that her Christian faith is the reason she runs, and she said she knows the ability she has to virtually fly around the track was given to her by God.
"Faith leads my life," she told the newspaper. "I definitely feel like I've been blessed with this gift, and so that's something that helps me to see the bigger picture. It's so easy to get caught up in winning everything and just the kind of the grind of what professional sports is, but it definitely helps me to kind of pull back and see that there's a greater purpose."
That doesn't mean things are always easy. The past year has been one setback after another, from the loss of her grandfather to a sidelining hamstring injury that left her unable to compete for a spot on the women's 200 meters team. By missing the 200 meters qualification, she also had to surrender any hope of running for the gold in both the 200 and 400 meters in Rio. Those times were difficult, she said.
"I think a lot of times you want faith to kind of be the answer to everything, and it's still a struggle to get there, you know? There are very real moments that are hard, but I think that it helps me to be able to learn the lesson that there is a purpose, a reason why maybe that happened, and it can create something in you and it might be preparing you for something better in the future," Felix said.
Felix is no stranger to the rigors of Olympic competition – and no stranger to the winner's podium. She won gold in the women's 4x400 meters relay and silver in the 200 meters in Beijing in 2008, and the silver in the 200 meters in Athens in 2004. At 30, she is one of the older, but not the oldest, Track & Field athletes.
Felix said she learned the idea of persevering in the race from her father, a seminary professor and her mother, a faithful and loving Christian woman.
"Our family was very involved in our church. I am so blessed to have my family and the upbringing that I did. It means so much to me to have two very godly parents who both have so much wisdom. They are amazing role models that I have had the privilege to watch as I grew up," Felix has related in her personal testimony.
"I came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior at a very young age. Ever since then, I have continually been striving to grown in my relationship with God. I was nowhere close to the perfect child. I had my share of difficult times along with some disappointing choices that I made, but thankfully God never stops loving me."
Does the thought of competing in front of so many people in the Olympics intimidate her? Not at all, she claims. She said she recites Philippians 4:6-7 if she becomes "anxious."
The passage reads:
"Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
"That verse always [encourages] my heart when I am dealing with any kind of pressure, and throughout the struggles of life my faith calms my heart. I try to stay in the [Bible] and I pray a lot, just talking to God. He provides my strength and wisdom," Felix said. "I know my talent is from God. And that's my purpose: to run to glorify Him."