Janine Beckie living for Christ as she leads Canada into Olympic gold-medal soccer match

Striker Janine Beckie’s path to the Tokyo Olympic gold-medal match with the Canadian women’s national team was a winding one.

Born in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Beckie was part of the United States youth teams and has lived in the U.S. most of her life. But her three siblings and parents were all born in Canada, giving Beckie dual citizenship. When offered the opportunity to represent her family’s country, she jumped at it.

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The 26-year-old had a relationship with Christ from an early age, but her faith was tested when she was one of the final players cut from Canada’s 2015 World Cup roster. The disappointment pushed Beckie to keep her identity centered on God and not her career.

“Though I had grown up in the Church and had given my life to Christ as a teenager, I was still trying to figure out what it meant to be a follower of Christ,” she wrote in an article for SportGoMag.com. “I was having a hard time detaching my identity from my sport.”

Despite the pain that came with missing out on the World Cup, Beckie kept trusting in God’s plan for her.

“Because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I knew this wasn’t the end of the road,” she wrote. “That wasn’t how my story would be written. I see now that God had another opportunity for me.”

That opportunity was the 2016 Olympics, where she set a record by scoring 19 seconds into Canada’s 2-0 victory over Australia. It was the fastest goal in Olympic history until a new mark was set on the men’s side by Brazil’s Neymar two weeks later. Beckie finished the tournament with three goals (tied for tops on her team, and tied for second overall) as Canada took home the bronze medal.

In Tokyo, Beckie — who plays professionally for Manchester City — is the only Canadian player with multiple goals, both of which came against Chile in pool play.

After advancing on penalties over Brazil in the quarterfinals, Canada upset the U.S. in the semifinals on Monday thanks to a 75th-minute penalty kick from Jessie Fleming. It marked Canada’s first victory over its North American rival since March 2001.

And the win means Canada will earn a medal for a third straight Olympics, becoming the third country to accomplish that feat. In addition to bronze in 2016, the Canadians also won bronze in 2012. Tokyo will net them either a gold or silver for the first time.

Win or lose, Beckie is motivated by a simple yet powerful goal: be like Jesus.

“I was raised by parents who taught me and my siblings to be humble athletes,” she wrote for SportGoMag.com. “I believe a big role of every Christ-follower is to look as much like Jesus as we can.”

She says her favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:31, which is tattooed on the inside of her left wrist. It says, “[B]ut those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

As she’s grown, Beckie has learned how to honor God by using her athletic gifts on the field and loving others well off of it.

“I want others to remember me as being kind, compassionate and a great teammate, while also being hard-working and relentless on the field,” she wrote. “I used to think those two things couldn’t coexist — taking fierce action on the field and being kind off the field — but I know that God gave me a competitive spirit for a reason.”

Canada will take on Sweden for gold at 11 a.m. Friday in Tokyo (10 p.m. ET on Thursday in the U.S.).

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