Athletes in Rio are facing more hurdles than usual at the Olympics this year. Outdoor swimmers are being told to “keep your mouths closed” because the bay has raw sewage. A jiu-jitsu athlete from New Zealand was kidnapped and robbed. Others have decided to skip the games altogether due to Zika. But amid the craziness there are some splendid things happening, too. Rio is the first South American city to host the Olympics, for example. And the International Olympic Committee has fully funded 10 athletes from Africa and the Middle East to compete under the Olympic flag as part of the first-ever all-refugee team.
In total, from August 5 to August 21, more than 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will compete in 306 events in 42 sports for 2,488 Olympic medals.
Here are six of the athletes that I’ll be watching as they represent not only their country but also their Savior, seeking to integrate their faith and their work.
1. Archery: Brady Ellison, 27, United States
Brady Ellison describes himself as “a country boy who likes to shoot his bow.” Though a three-time Pan American Games gold medalist, he only brought home a team silver in 2012. U.S. national team coach Kisik Lee, who also mentors Brady spiritually, says he is “the most talented archer in the world.”
His faith has changed how he approaches competition. “Once I put winning in God’s hands,” Brady says, “I stopped worrying about that. I just went to tournaments and shot with no fear, doing only the best I can do and leaving the rest up to God.”
His teammate Jacob Wukie also trusts in Christ, which enables him too to let go of the results. “While for a long time archery has been a very big part of what I do, my identity is in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Wukie says. “Since I am confident he is in control and has a plan for my life, I am able to give my best and let the rest lie in his hands.”