Despite setting a Colombian national record in May for the fastest women’s 400-meter hurdles time, Melissa Gonzalez had to wait for more than a month afterward to learn if she could represent Colombia at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Gonzalez, the wife of Detroit Lions backup quarterback David Blough, ran a time of 55.68 seconds at the 2021 South American Championships. This surpassed her previous record time of 55.73 at the 2019 championships.
Her time won gold at the event but fell short of the Olympic requirements of 55.40 for an automatic bid in the women’s 400m hurdles. Eventually, however, Gonzalez qualified for her first Olympics with an at-large bid.
“They need 40 women to run the first round,” Gonzalez told the Athletic this week. “I think 33 or so made the time standard, so they needed to fill in the rest of the spots with the people from the world-ranking list. It was kind of just a waiting game until the end of qualifying.”
She will represent Colombia in the 400-meter hurdles & owns the national record in the event (55.68).
Melissa & David both attended Creekview H.S. in Carrollton, Texas. pic.twitter.com/ZqhHDPCF6i
— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) July 2, 2021
Since her father was born in Colombia, Gonzalez’s dual citizenship allows her to compete for Colombia despite being born in the United States. She values the opportunity to compete for Colombia, as she recognizes the level of skill required to compete for the U.S.
“As far as the decision to compete for Colombia, it gives me an opportunity to compete at this level that I probably wouldn’t have if I ran for the U.S., just based on the depth that the U.S. has in, like, every event,” Gonzalez told the Athletic.
To wit, the top two women in the event are American. Sydney McLaughlin recently set the women’s 400m hurdles world record at 51.90, topping the previous world record-holder, Dalilah Muhammad, at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.
I wish you all could see the day to day that went into this. In 2017, Melissa said, “I know I belong at the highest level, I’m going to run through Tokyo 2020 and just see what happens.”
— David Blough (@david_blough10) July 2, 2021
With her Olympic berth now secure, Gonzalez has a new platform on which she can be a witness for Christ to others. She says through the simple act of listening, she attempts to share God’s love.
“If you ask questions and really listen, people will share,” Gonzalez told SportGoMag.com, a website sharing Christ-centered stories of sportspersons around the world. “It may be as simple as asking someone to get coffee to share the love of Christ with them. This small, repetitive act may be how they grow to love and cherish Jesus Christ. It was for me.”
Gonzalez said another way she can evangelize is through holding true to her beliefs.
“Today, as I compete internationally with the Colombian national team, I have to make decisions that set me apart,” Gonzalez told SportGoMag.com. “I try to be a Christlike example to whomever I’m with, whether that be my teammates, my siblings or anyone else. So when my teammates ask me why I don’t go out drinking or to clubs with them, I have an opportunity to share the love and truth of God with them.”
Knowing that Heaven outweighs any trials on earth, Gonzalez said she does not worry about those who may attack her faith.
“I’m not willing to compromise my beliefs,” Gonzalez told SportGoMag.com. “Yes, it may be easier, and much more comfortable, to go along with whatever my teammates are doing, but it’s not what we’re called to do as Christ-followers. We’re not promised a comfortable life. In fact, if we choose to follow Christ, we are promised to face opposition and persecution. That may be in the form of teammates laughing at you for standing out, or it may be as serious as putting your life in danger for making a stance for Christ. But whatever the cost, eternal life with Christ is worth it.”
Gonzalez’s trip to Tokyo may place her in situations to share her faith on the world stage. The first round of the women’s 400m hurdles competition is July 31, with the semifinals occurring Aug. 2 and the final taking place Aug. 4.
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