God gave me an unusual platform and I intend to use it for Him as much as I can. I throw the javelin, a gift I didn’t even know I had until college. And I’ve been blessed to compete in two different Olympic Games.
I’ve worked incredibly hard on refining my skills and I practice every day to the best of my ability. Yet my identity is not attached to a number on a scoreboard; rather, it is found in Christ. I just do the best that I can and glorify God in that. When people see me, I want them to see Jesus shining through me. I’m just a vessel who has been given this unique gift.
I can see how God was molding me into His vessel throughout my life. When I was in kindergarten, I broke my femur and chipped a growth plate, leaving doctors wondering if my leg would ever grow again. But my parents found a doctor who helped me overcome these setbacks.
Growing up in a small town, I played every available sport in school: volleyball, basketball and different track events. Javelin wasn’t even an event in Nebraska high school track. When I went to college, I competed in the heptathlon and one coach noticed how much I excelled at one of the events, the javelin, even though I had no formal training. He convinced me to concentrate on that event.
And in just 3 1/2 years, God game me the skills to become the NCAA National Champion, Collegiate Record Holder and make it to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics where I finished 25th. Then, in the 2021 Tokyo Olmpics, I finished 10th.
On my way to the U.S. Olympic trials in 2021, I got the call that no one wants to get. My brother, Matt, had taken his life by suicide, something that was totally unexpected and shocking to me. I desperately wanted to come home to be with my family and grieve with them, rather than being alone on the other side of the country. But since I had invested five more years between Olympiads to train for this moment, they convinced me to stay and compete. I cried for days and had to totally compartmentalize to practice and focus. I prayed for strength to focus and then put everything in the Lord’s hands.
And to show you how the Lord works, I posted one of my all-time best throws at those Olympic Trials. In fact, after I whispered, “This one’s for you, Matt”, I set a new Olympic Trials record. In fact, I broke the American record. When interviewed over the public address system, I said I wanted to take this moment and give it to Jesus. The crowd erupted. After the interview, the reporter turned to me and shared, “you realize this is now your mission, to use your athletic gift as your platform.” That’s when I understood why God had given me this ability.
God gave me this gift and I always pray and ask where He wants me to take this and how to use it to proclaim the name of Jesus. He has given me a platform to speak to other athletes around the world, something I never expected to do.
And He has opened up the door for me to speak in schools. I’m restricted on what I can share in public schools, but I do tell everyone in the audience that my Christian beliefs are number one to me. That opens up a lot of discussions when kids and their parents approach me after my talks.
God has had a plan for me and I feel I’m just along for the ride. He has shattered every expectation I have had for myself. And blessed my life abundantly.