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Decathlete wakes up to God’s expectations


EDITOR’S NOTE: Tim Ellsworth, who was in Beijing Aug. 6-16, is continuing his coverage of the 2008 Olympics for Baptist Press. Ellsworth, director of news and media relations at Union University, has been assisted with photography by David McIntyre, a freelancer based in Asia. Baptist Press will publish features about Christian athletes in the Olympics and give results of their competition as well as highlight and summarize the Summer Games, which end Aug. 25. Also, Tim will blog about each day’s highlights.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Trey Hardee, a U.S. decathlete competing in Beijing this week, grew up in a Christian home but strayed from the Lord as a teenager and during his college years at the University of Texas.

“I knew the Bible, and I knew the stories, and I knew the lessons and all that stuff, but I really wasn’t seeking the Lord,” Hardee said. “I was your typical high school student.”

But Hardee says God put it on his heart for him to start going to church again. So he sat in the service at the Austin Stone Community Church (a Southern Baptist congregation in the Texas capital), listening to pastor Matt Carter preach.

“The words from his mouth were the Lord speaking directly to me,” Hardee recounted. “It was a real punch in the gut. It was kind of a shocker.”

The questions flooded his mind: Trey, what are you doing? How have you been living the last three years? Who are you trying to be? Who are you trying to become?

“Up until that point, it was all about me,” Hardee said. “It was all about how much better can I make myself. It really had nothing to do with the glory of God. It had nothing to do with the gifts He had given me. It was at that point that I chose to get into the Word.”

So Hardee joined a small Bible study in Austin with some other runners and athletes. As they wrestled with the Scripture, Hardee came to some firm conclusions about how God expected him to live -– especially as an athlete.

“We talk about honoring God with our bodies and our gifts,” Hardee said. “There are a lot of times I don’t want to get out of bed. I want to sleep in. I want to rest and recover. It means a little bit more knowing where your source is and not wasting the gifts, not sacrificing the gifts for my own selfish needs. The Lord’s given me these abilities. For me not to train one day, it seems more selfish.”

Instead of succumbing to laziness, he recognized that such an attitude was poor stewardship of his talent and he began to apply the theological truths he was learning in Scripture to his training mentality.

“You show up day in and day out and you do the work no matter how you feel, because it’s your duty,” Hardee said. “It’s what you’ve been given. It’s just like tithing. The Lord blesses you with gifts, and you’re supposed to give that back. That’s the way I feel about it.”

Hardee earned a spot on the Olympic team by turning in his best performance ever in the decathlon. His total score of 8,534 points in the Olympic trials was the second best score among Americans over the past two years. Only Bryan Clay, a fellow believer, did better, tallying 8,832 points at the 2008 Olympic trials.

The decathlon, quite possibly the most grueling of all the Olympic competitions, encompasses 10 events in two days — jumps, sprints, throws, endurance runs. The winner is typically regarded as the world’s greatest athlete.

Hardee said he doesn’t necessarily like one event over another -– but he does get a little more excited about the sprints.

“But overall, I just like the decathlon, the opportunity to compete 10 times over two days,” he said. “It’s kind of the same addiction that marathoners have. Actually completing one means a lot more than your actual times and that kind of stuff.

“It’s a fun atmosphere,” he continued. “There’s a lot of camaraderie and sportsmanship that goes along with the decathlon, in my experience.”

Heading into the decathlon competition in Beijing, which begins tonight, Hardee is confident about his chances.

“I’m in a position, I think, to do well,” he said. “I feel good. I’m healthy.”

But beyond the results, Hardee wants to stick to the principles he’s been following over the past few months to glorify God with his performance and honor Him in the way he conducts himself.

“I think everything will turn out alright,” Hardee said. “I’m not worried about anything. I know I’m in this position for a reason. And God’s timing’s perfect, so if it doesn’t go my way, it wasn’t supposed to go this way.”
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    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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