BEIJING (BP)–Hyleas Fountain, before winning the bronze medal in the women’s heptathlon in Beijing, was thinking it might be her time to glorify God in the Olympics.
In the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials, Fountain finished fourth, one slot shy of making the team. She told “Sharing the Victory” radio, a ministry of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, that focusing on God’s sovereignty got her through that disappointment.
“It was a little nerve-racking because I was coming out of college and I went there thinking I was going to make the team,” Fountain, 27, said. “I got fourth place and I was really crushed. But then I thought to myself, ‘God obviously did this to me for a reason, just telling me maybe I need to work a little harder.’ It was just the other girls’ time.
“Of course I was telling myself, ‘I wish I got last,’ but then I looked at the grand scheme of things and thought, ‘Obviously God does things for a reason and I’m going to have my time. I just have to be patient for it,'” she said.
Fountain said she accepted the plan of God by being strong in her faith even when she wondered why God would allow her to miss the Olympic team after training so hard for years.
“But I just accepted it, and I think that’s why He’s brought me back here again. I totally believe that this year should be my year,” Fountain said before Beijing.
Her motivation, she said, is being certain God gave her a track and field talent for a reason.
“I don’t think He would have given me this talent for no reason at all. I feel like I need to use this talent, and I dream about it all the time,” she told FCA. “I’m like, ‘Why am I dreaming about this? This must be something God wants me to do.’ I don’t give up very easily.
“Obviously He keeps bringing it back to me and I keep getting blessed with track and field, and the doors keep opening up. I had to switch coaches and I ended up running into an awesome coach, and where I’m training now it’s really good and I can focus…. I think God just keeps the door open for me.”
This year in the Olympic trials, Fountain won five of seven events, registered five personal bests and posted her overall personal-best score to become the U.S. heptathlon champion. But heading into the Olympics, Fountain showed respect for her competitors.
“I’m not going to put anybody on the back burner,” she said, according to NBCOlympics.com. “It’s anybody’s day, anybody’s medal.”
But on Aug. 17, Fountain earned the first U.S. women’s heptathlon medal since Jackie Joyner-Kersee in Barcelona in 1992. She stumbled in the 100 meter hurdles and the high jump but she ran a personal record in the 800 meters to close the gap and finish third behind two heptathletes from the Ukraine.
“I’m excited. I planned on getting on the medal stand,” Fountain said, according to USA Today. “In the heptathlon, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad, and I had a lot of that this week.”
When she struggled with the long jump and the javelin, Fountain said she never lost hope.
“I tried to give it my all. I told my coach if I didn’t fall over the [finish] line then I wasn’t doing any work,” she said.
Before the Olympics, Fountain told FCA that Philippians 4:13 would carry her through the tough times.
“I always think of ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Even when I’m down, that’s what I think about. I was having such a bad day at practice yesterday with the high jump, but then I just think of that. I’m like, ‘It’s going to be OK. Christ is going to strengthen me, and my day will come. I just have to be patient.'”
The Washington Post ran an article about athletes who planned to publicly acknowledge allegiance to God in Beijing despite the Chinese government’s crackdown on organized public displays of faith. Fountain was quoted in the article, which said she typically throws her arms skyward and says a quick prayer after each of her seven events.
“That’s my celebration,” she said. “That’s my way of thanking God for giving me this opportunity.”
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.