By Les Sillars
Media coverage of the Olympics seldom mentions the faith of the competitors, even though many of these men and women are sincere Christians. Here are brief profiles of seven world-class athletes from the United States whose boldness for Christ is something to cheer about—even if they don’t bring home a medal from the London 2012 Olympic Games, which begin this weekend.
MEN’S 120-KILOGRAM FREESTYLE WRESTLING
In high school Tervel Dlagnev, 26, who was born in Bulgaria and raised in Arlington, Texas, was an avowed atheist and a troublemaker. But he became a believer through the influence of Christian teammates on his high school and college wrestling teams. Now he collects stuffed animals and his wife, Kirsten, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “I feel like he pays a lot of attention and he really cares about knowing, ‘Am I being a good husband? Am I giving you what you need? Am I leading you spiritually? Are there any areas I’m lacking as a husband?’”
Dlagnev has an impressive international record and a good shot at gold in London. “Jesus is my life,” he wrote recently, “and it’s been cool to experience Him through this sport I have a passion for.”
The most dominant basketball team in the world doesn’t have Lebron James. The U.S. women’s team is completely stacked with talent and has several outspoken believers, most notably 6-foot forward Maya Moore, 23. At the University of Connecticut Moore was a two-time national player of the year, played on two NCAA championship teams, and was a part of a 90-game win streak. Last season she was named the WNBA Rookie of the Year as she played for the league champion Minnesota Lynx.
Moore signs her autographs with Colossians 3:23, according to Christianity Today, and last season at a Lynx Faith and Family Night, she divided the crowd into three groups to sing “Glory to God Forever.”
“I often use the word ‘free’ to remind myself that God wants me to live my life and compete on the court free in him,” she said. “Free to play great, free to make a mistake, free to learn from them. Of course, I want to win and play well, but no matter the result, I want to look back at the performance knowing I’ve honored the Lord.”