The Olympic Games are always fascinating and inspiring times to watch some of the world’s most elite athletes compete. The years of preparation it takes to make it to the Olympics and the intense pressure during those final moments of competition are not for the faint of heart. Here is what 15 Olympians shared about their secrets for success:
Michael Phelps: Swimming
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in men’s 4x200m freestyle relay, men’s 200m butterfly, men’s 4x100m medley relay, men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, men’s 200m individual relay. Silver medalist in men’s 100m butterfly.
When Michael Phelps found himself in a dark place and he questioned whether life was worth living, his Christian friend and former NFL linebacker, Ray Lewis, stepped up and encouraged Phelps to get his life back on track. He sent Phelps a book, Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. Of the book, Phelps said, “It’s turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet … It helped me when I was in a place where I needed the most help.” Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 23 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals.
Simone Biles: Gymnastics
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist for individual all-around, vault, floor and team competition. Bronze medalist for beam.
Biles has been called the best female gymnast that ever lived. Back in 2013, Simone Biles posted this insight on Twitter about what drives her to become better:
Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with your talent is your gift back to God????
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) November 12, 2013
Ibtihaj Muhammad: Fencing
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Bronze medalist in women’s team sabre. Muhammad made history by being the first American athlete to compete in the Olympics while wearing a Muslim hijab.
“My religion. My faith. They are part of who I am,” Muhammad said in a video released by Mini USA. “When I realized that there had never been a Muslim woman who wore the hijab to represent Team USA, I wanted it, you know, not just for myself but for my community.” Watch the full video here:
Brianna Rollins: Track and Field
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 100m hurdles
“I just kept God first and just continued to let Him guide me throughout the rounds,” Rollins said in an interview with NBC. Her Twitter profile says, “I want to break world records and win gold medals, but I also want to be known as the athlete who glorified God by reaching my full potential.”
Kerri Walsh Jennings: Beach Volleyball
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Bronze medalist with April Ross.
On Instagram, Walsh Jennings revealed some of the words that empower her before competition:
Maya DiRado: Swimming
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 200m backstroke and women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Silver medalist in women’s 400m individual medley. Bronze medalist in women’s 200m individual medley.
“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,” said DiRado in an interview with Christianity Today. “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.”
Simone Manuel: Swimming
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 100m freestyle and women’s 4x100m medley relay. Silver medalist in women’s 50m freestyle and women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.
“All glory to God. Isn’t he awesome!” Manuel shared this message via Twitter:
Thank you all for the support! ??–>?? pic.twitter.com/nG8bqit4OV
— Simone Manuel (@simone_manuel) July 4, 2016
Nate Ebner: Rugby
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Ebner made history for being the only Super Bowl champion who has played rugby in the Olympics.
“[My dad] taught me the importance of being Jewish with holidays like Chanukah and Passover, and I spent some time at Sunday Hebrew school,” said Ebner. “My dad stressed finishing strong in every task I did, and conduct myself always in a proper manner.”
Gabby Douglas: Gymnastics
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in the women’s team competition.
“I take my Bible with me, sometimes two of them, when I travel…. I always pray at every competition, when the judge’s hand goes up I am praying, and there are little Scriptures I like to quote. That keeps me motivated when I am about to go out on the competition floor,” said Douglas in an interview with Christianity Today. “I would say little short prayers, quoting Scriptures: I can do all things through Christ, don’t fear, be courageous. Little things like that get me motivated.”
Steele Johnson: Synchronized Diving
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Silver medalist with David Boudia in men’s synchronized 10m platform.
In an interview with NBC Sports, Johnson said, “It’s cool because this is exciting, this is fun, but this is not what my identity will be for the rest of my life. Yeah, I’m Steele Johnson the Olympian, but at the same time I’m here to love and serve Christ. My identity is rooted in Christ, not in the flips we’re doing.”
Reid Priddy: Men’s Volleyball
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Priddy and the USA men’s volleyball team play Italy in the semifinals on Friday, August 19.
“Volleyball has been a major way God communicates life lessons to me,” said Priddy in an interview with Athletes in Action. “They go hand-in-hand; what I’m learning on the volleyball court I am able to apply in life and vice versa.”
Corey Cogdell: Shooting
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Bronze medalist in women’s trap.
Cogdell expressed her Christian beliefs on Instagram:
Katie Ledecky: Swimming
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 200m freestyle, women’s 800m freestyle, women’s 400m freestyle, women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Silver medalist in women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.
Ledecky told the Catholic Standard that her faith helps her keep things in perspective. “I do say a prayer – or two – before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me,” she said.
Bubba Watson: Golf
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Although Watson did not medal in Rio, he participated in a historic competition as golf made its debut after 104 years of absence from the Olympics.
In an interview with BillyGraham.org, Watson credited regular Bible study with helping him stay centered. He said he looks forward to “Getting more in the Word and realizing that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”
Missy Franklin: Swimming
RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 4x200m freestyle relay.
Following a disappointing Olympics in Rio, Franklin Tweeted about the optimism and perspective her faith brings:
Trusting in the Lord that something BEAUTIFUL will come out of this, and that I will come back stronger than ever! pic.twitter.com/Bi5NmbAM83
— Missy Franklin (@missyfranklin) August 12, 2016
Watch this video to learn more about why faith matters to Missy Franklin: