Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Jenny Simpson incorporates her faith into running as she aims for fourth Olympics

Jenny Simpson has already shown the world her aptitude in the sport of running. A three-time Olympian (2008, 2012, 2016), she won a bronze medal in the 1500-meter race at the 2016 Rio Olympics, a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships, and silver medals at the 2013 and 2017 Worlds.

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Now 34, she’s preparing to compete for a fourth trip to the Olympics. She can earn a berth at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, which take place June 18-27. The first round of the women’s 1500m event is Friday.

 

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Last week, Simpson looked back at what has guided her running career in a podinar with MYLC Faith. She said part of her goal now is to share Christ’s love with others, and she tries to do that through three short phrases: “Word hard. Live right. Be Brave.” In the podinar, Simpson described why these phrases are so important to her.

For “work hard,” Simpson talked about being willing to work for goals.

“We pray a lot for God to be faithful to us and we pray that promise down on us, but we’re also supposed to be faithful, and we’re supposed to be faithful to that work,” Simpson said.

In regard to “live right,” Simpson said everything Christians do should be a reflection of their faith.

“Whatever you consider your work in life, integrate it with your faith and think, ‘How today am I showing Christ’s love to others?’” Simpson said.

And as for “be brave,” Simpson said courage is critical to success when it comes to running, as well as life.

“It takes so much guts to stand on any starting line or stand in front of any audience or any group of people and say, ‘This is the best that I can do today,’” Simpson said.

Through these three simple yet powerful phrases, Simpson is equipped to fulfill God’s calling for her life. Through running, she can serve God and live for Him.

“Running is just an analogy for who you want to be on this planet,” Simpson said. “It doesn’t seem like, ‘Oh, it’s an ad-on to my life in other ways.’ It just is my life as a whole and how I try to express who I want to be and the path through which I’m learning who I am, who I was created to be.”

Simpson credited a public-school teacher who motivated her when she was a child as the reason she started running. She also said the teacher’s encouragement planted a desire in her heart to encourage others.

“Never underestimate the power of encouraging a young person,” Simpson said. “When you see a child, and you look at them and say, ‘Hey, this is something you could probably be really good at,’ so often kids take that to heart. Literally, something that small can set a kid on a positive trajectory for their life and that was definitely the case for me.”

Coaches and mentors have played a major role in the success Simpson has enjoyed. Despite all of the accolades, however, Simpson places a higher priority on relationships than her awards.

“In anything you do, the relationships you build along the way, those often end up being the greatest blessings and the greatest gifts,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade the relationship I have with my high school coaches or my college coaches for any of the accomplishments that I’ve gained along the way.”

In addition to everything Simpson has accomplished in her career, she has also encountered seasons of disappointment. One of those was when she was racing at the world championships in 2015 and her shoe came off, effectively ending her chances of winning. Unfortunately, it was actually the second time she had lost a shoe in competition, having experienced the same in a steeplechase event during the NCAA finals.

As frustrating as those moments were, they benefitted Simpson because they helped her learn how to deal with disappointment.

“You learn to get better at handling disappointment and you learn to get better at being resilient when you are willing to do that work, bounce back and be faithful to work,” Simpson said.

The U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials will air live on NBC, NBCSN, NBCOlympics.com and Peacock from June 18-27 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. The women’s 1500m final is scheduled for Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

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