Andre De Grasse, left, and Deanne Rose.

Speaking Out: Olympians open up about faith

By  Jacob Stocking, Youth Speak News
  • July 28, 2021

Long before Jesus walked this Earth and died for our sins, the Ancient Greeks ran, threw and wrestled their way to glory in the first iterations of the Olympic Games.

Although these athletic competitions were originally dedicated to the mythological Greek deity Zeus, the modern Summer and Winter Olympics feature athletes from all different faith backgrounds including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.

Almost 3,000 years after the first Olympics took place in 776 B.C., athletes are still dedicating their victories to heavenly powers.

Famous Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse, who is competing in his second Olympics in Tokyo after winning silver and bronze medals in the 2016 Games,  quite literally wears his heart on his sleeve.

In a 2016 CBC video feature entitled Beautiful Bodies,  he explained the many tattoos that cover his limber figure. “I started thinking God gave me a gift to run,” said the 26-year-old. “So I ended up putting ‘God’s Gift’ right here on my upper arm.”

In the same interview, De Grasse, who was educated in Catholic schools in Markham, Ont.,  showcased a short prayer inscribed in ink along one forearm, saying that he repeats it nightly.

Those among his 257,000 followers on Instagram will frequently come across faith-focused captions.  A snapshot of the sprinter in Qatar sits atop the affirmation: “When God says it’s your time, no one can stop it.”

Another Olympian competing in Tokyo is Canadian women’s soccer star Deanne Rose, who was raised in Alliston, Ont., and attended St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary in Tottenham. Having already competed for Team Canada at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the 22-year-old was the 10th overall draft pick in this year’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) draft.   

Like De Grasse, she isn’t afraid to share her faith on social media.  A recent Twitter post promoting her upcoming Olympic appearance ended with the emphatic statement: “First things first, GLORY BE TO GOD !!”

While these athletes preach the importance of faith in the sport, the Catholic Church also stresses the importance of sport in faith.

In a 2018 document titled “Giving the best of yourself” Pope Francis described sport as “a very rich source of values and virtues that helps us to become better people.”

Besides individual discipline, team sports can provide an opportunity to collaborate with our brothers and sisters. 

As the pontiff said at a 2014 gathering in St. Peter’s Square to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Italian Sports Centre: “To belong to a sports team means to reject all forms of selfishness and isolation.”

The crushing weight of isolation is certainly something many athletes will be looking to shed at this year’s Olympic Games.  COVID-19 postponed the competition for over a year, which can only serve to whet the athletes’ appetite for competition and camaraderie in the Athletes’ Village.

This challenge is certainly external, but additional comments from Pope Francis at the sports ceremony reinforce the idea that one’s greatest foe is oneself.

“Challenge yourself in the game of life like you are in the game of sports” he says. “Don’t settle for a mediocre ‘tie,’ give it your best, spend your life on what really matters and lasts forever.”

(Stocking, 18, will begin pursuing a journalism degree from Carleton University in Ottawa in September.)

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