It's as dependable as the Olympic Flame. Every two years the world's best athletes convene in a single city to compete for the honor of their countries, their families, and, for some, their God.
The games stay the same—give or take your Ski Halfpipe, Women's Ski Jumping, or Team Figure Skating, all making their debuts in Sochi—but every Olympic season we welcome a new set of athletes into our homes via Bob Costas and his personality pieces engineered to invest us more deeply in their pursuit of gold. For two weeks these athletes become household names, securing a few more weeks if they win gold, and their stories become the backdrop of our lives until the last lights go out in the Olympic Village.
It's nice to find fellow Christians among the 230 men and women who make up the 2014 Team USA delegation to Sochi, Russia. We don't root for them because they're on "Team Jesus," but all the same it's nice to see people at the peak of their field, on the world's biggest athletic stage, turn the credit back to the One who gave us bodies to run and jump and spin on ice and imaginations to push the limits of those bodies to run faster, jump higher, and spin faster than we ever thought possible.
Here are a few Christians to watch as they compete for Team USA in Sochi. Many of them are medal contenders; all of them know that no matter what happens over the next two weeks, God will still be good.
Kelly Clark - Snowboarding (Halfpipe) @KellyClarkFDN
The four-time Olympian and two-time medalist in the women's snowboarding event (gold in 2002, bronze in 2010), Clark was led to Christ in 2005 when she realized that despite her success—she is the winningest woman in halfpipe history—she still felt empty. She witnessed another boarder console a competitor who had just failed to qualify by telling her, "It's all right. God still loves you," and was struck by the idea that she found the woman in her hotel room and asked her to explain more. That night she made a decision to give her life to Christ, and has spoken out about her faith ever since. Sochi will be her fourth straight Olympics.
Lolo Jones - Bobsled @LoloJones
One of the most visible athletes on the U.S. team, Lori "Lolo" Jones, is known almost as much for her faith (and her openness to discussing her virginity) as she is for her athletic talent and drive. After finishing fourth in her premier event—the 100m hurdles—at the 2012 Summer Games in London, Jones pulled a Cool Runnings to keep her quest for an Olympic medal alive by switching to this track-friendly winter sport. Her selection to the team given her newcomer status was not without controversy, but the U.S. women's bobsled team is expected to do well after sweeping the medals at the sport's World Cup last month.
David Wise - Freeskiing (Halfpipe) @MrDavidWise
Wise won his first national title in freestyle ski halfpipe at 15 and went pro at 18. He met his wife Alexandra at church camp, eloped at 21, and had a daughter a year later. Now 23, he finished 2013 ranked first in the world in his discipline and is a gold medal favorite in his sport's first-ever Olympics. He wants his skiing to "show people that the world is beautiful. Yeah, there's ugliness mixed in, but God created us all with the potential of enjoying this place." He loves to read and lists C. S. Lewis as his favorite author. Together he and his wife run the youth group at their church, and he pictures himself someday becoming a full-time pastor.