RIO DE JANEIRO (Christian Examiner) – In the run up to the Rio Olympics, first-time Olympian Maya DiRado told a journalist she believed God didn't really care whether or not she won in the competition.
"I don't think God really cares about my swimming very much," DiRado said in June. "This is not my end purpose, to make the Olympic team. My God is powerful and in control, but I don't think he cares whether I win. It's interesting theology you can get into when it's a God of victory in your sport."
I think that my faith has helped me chart my own course and pursue my goals when people around me may be going in different directions. Jesus' love for me and all humanity is something that always helps me better love people around me when things get difficult.
Instead, she later told Christianity Today, God cares about her soul and about how she relates to her teammates and the world. Her goal is to infuse mercy into the world and to "bless others around me in the same way God has been so generous with me."
DiRado, 23, is a latecomer to Olympic competition. She narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympic team in 2012, but used the years before 2016 to finish college at Stanford University. While there, she and her parents attended The River Church Community, an outreach of the Evangelical Covenant Church. She also married.
In her early years, she questioned her faith but never departed from it. Since then, she said she has been guided by her faith.
"Knowing that I'm a child of God and that his love for me is determined by nothing I can achieve or do on my own has given me a quiet confidence. I think that my faith has helped me chart my own course and pursue my goals when people around me may be going in different directions. Jesus' love for me and all humanity is something that always helps me better love people around me when things get difficult," DiRado said.
But things have been going smoothly in Rio – "swimmingly," one might say. DiRado was the surprise gold medalist in the women's 200m backstroke – her fourth Olympic medal at the Rio games.
That count tied her with Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky for most medals won so far by U.S. swimmers at the Rio Olympic Games.
Fans, however, shouldn't expect to see DiRado compete in another Olympics. She has already announced she will retire after the games come to a close. Life awaits, she said.
"As for my swimming career, my faith has helped me remember that there are so many more important things in life worth doing. Swimming is a pretty selfish activity, and so I've always known that it can't be my whole world."