By Becky York and Aliese Willard
With the 2018 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony in the books, it’s time for the games to begin. Here are six Christians to keep your eye on during the PyeongChang Games:
The defending Olympic men’s ski halfpipe gold medalist and four-time X Games gold medalist, David Wise is favored to take the top podium position once again at the 2018 Winter OIympics. Just one month prior to the upcoming PyeongChang Games in South Korea, Wise wowed X Games viewers in Aspen, Colo., when he became the first freeskier to land four different double corks in four different directions (a double cork is when a skier executes two distinct off-axis rotations).
Wise has not only amazed action sports fans with his intricate spins and tricks, this 27-year-old husband and father of two also holds the world record for the highest non-motorized air jump in the history of sports at 14.2 meters (46.6 feet). As the oldest member of Team USA’s Olympic freestyle ski team at 27 years old, he holds many titles and medals with potential for many more. But he’s made it clear that he’s competing for a much greater reason.
“Skiing for me has always been my act of worship to God,” Wise told Sports Spectrum in a phone interview, “and as long it continues to be, I will keep on skiing. I don’t treat my sport as something that’s meant to glorify me, I try my best to treat is as something that brings glory to God.”
Originally from the small town of Dover, Vt., Kelly Clark first became a member of the U.S. Snowboard team in 2000 at the age of 17. Eighteen years later, with 18 medals from international competitions to her name, eight of which are gold, Clark continues to be a contender to watch out for. In 2015, Clark received the Best Female Action Sports Athlete ESPY Award.
Probably the most well-known women’s snowboarder in the world, Clark remains humble about her myriad of trophies and titles, and instead deflects the praise to God. An unashamed Christ-follower, Clark rides with a sticker on her board that proclaims, “Jesus, I cannot hide my love.” Her lone Olympic gold medal was in 2002 in her Olympic debut, but she’s won two bronze medals since. Can she clinch another medal in her fifth Olympic appearance?
One of the proud members of the U.S. women’s Olympic bobsled team, Elana Meyers Taylor is competing in her third Olympics in 2018. She won bronze as a brakeman in 2010, and then silver as a driver in 2014. In 2015, she became the first U.S. bobsled driver (male or female) in 56 years to win a world title on a non-American track.
A six-time world championship medalist, Meyers Taylor and her Olympic rookie brakeman, Lauren Gibbs, will be strong medal contenders in South Korea. But whether they take home a medal or not, Meyers’ motivation to compete remains steadfast.
“At the end of the day, I’m in this sport to glorify God,” she told Athletes in Action, “so if that means I come in last place or I win the gold medal, that’s what I’m going to do.”
This Ghanian-born 18-year-old was the first African American female to qualify for the U.S. Olympic speed skating team (a second, Erin Jackson, later qualified for long track), and she’s currently ranked 10th in the world in the women’s 500m. She has an infectiously bubbly personality that morphs into dead serious determination when the start gun goes off. Known for explosive speed in her starts and charismatic finishes, she has earned a fan base from her entertaining performances. Do yourselves a favor and watch her Olympic qualifying race in this NBC video:
“The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect,” reads Biney’s Instragram bio. “It means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with.”
A goofy-footed melon-grabber (snowboard speak for riding with the right foot first, and grabbing the heel side of the board during tricks), Corning, 18, was the first U.S. Olympic qualifier in the snowboarding big air and slopestyle events. A relative unknown in the sporting world until last year, Corning has dealt with his phenom status by turning in increasingly impressive performances, even after injuring his left hip and lower back before his big air Olympic qualifying run.
Corning has also been a member of the Snowboarders and Skiers for Christ (SFC) chapters in Colorado, a group with the goal of being “the light of Jesus to the snowriding culture.”
One of three invited goalies on the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team, Hensley’s talent and spunk has made us fans. A regular starter for the U.S. women’s hockey team, the 23-year-old is the NCAA Division I all-time leader in saves, and a two-time world champion gold medalist. The Lakewood, Colo., native is also passionate about her faith in God, regularly tweeting Bible verses.
The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace-Numbers 6:26
— Nicole Hensley (@NicHens29) February 7, 2018
She even has her helmet emblazoned with Psalm 144:1: “Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.”
Returning for her third Olympics, Marvin hails from from Warroad, Minn., the first town known to call itself Hockeytown, USA. She is a two-time silver medalist with the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team.
Prized for her skills as a defender who can score, she’s as vocal about her Christian faith as she is about her determination to earn the elusive gold that has evaded the U.S. women’s team for 20 years. In an interview with Sports Spectrum’s Jason Romano, Marvin quoted Jeremiah 29:11 and credited God as her hope in the midst of uncertainty: “Every time I just come back and see God’s faithfulness. ‘Just trust in me, Gigi! Keep living this, and trusting Me. I have your life in My hands.’”