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Family’s love carries U.S. swimmer to Beijing Olympics

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tim Ellsworth, director of news and media relations at Union University, is in Beijing Aug. 6-16 covering the 2008 Olympics for Baptist Press. He is assisted with photography by David McIntyre, a freelancer based in Asia. Baptist Press will publish features about Christian athletes in the Olympics, give results of their competition as well as highlight and summarize the Summer Games. Also, Tim will blog throughout each day about his experiences with athletes, coaches and the Chinese people. He will continue his coverage from the U.S. from Aug. 17-25.

BEIJING (BP)–Elaine Breeden’s swimming career almost didn’t get started. Her uncle signed her up for swim lessons when she was 4, but Breeden was too afraid to get into the water.

“I refused to get in, and I remember him chasing me around the pool deck,” Breeden said. “He finally won, and I have been swimming ever since.”

Breeden, 19, a native of Lexington, Ky., is now happy that her uncle was faster than she was. She’s representing the U.S. swim team in Beijing in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly events, her first time to compete in the Olympics.

In the 100-meter race, she advanced to the semifinals but didn’t qualify for the finals. She’ll begin competition in the 200-meter event Aug. 12.

A product of Trinity Christian Academy in Lexington, Ky., which doesn’t have a swim team, Breeden now swims at Stanford University. In a university setting that can often be hostile to Christians, Breeden has found a group of committed believers there as she pursues not only swimming, but her relationship with Christ.

“She’s found a very comfortable, encouraging place at Stanford,” Breeden’s mother Lenore said. “She loves everything about it.”

Breeden comes from a Christian home and became a believer at a young age, and the faith that has been nurtured in her since childhood has a profound impact on her as a competitive swimmer.

“Being a Christian affects my athletics more than any other factor,” Breeden said. “I know that my talent does not come from myself, and that I have a responsibility to put forth effort and perform to the best of my ability. Knowing that the outcome of my races is in God’s hands gives me a sense of peace and keeps me humble in victory as in defeat.

“Like Eric Liddell [the Scottish runner whose story was told in the movie ‘Chariots of Fire’], I feel God’s pleasure when I swim, and I want to use my gift to reach out to others.”

Life has revolved around swimming for the entire Breeden family for years. Her mother served as an official and Elaine’s father Dan volunteered to help with computer and technological issues at meets and for the swim club. Elaine’s older sister also competed.

“It was sort of a full family deal,” Lenore said. “It’s a very healthy environment.

“Plus,” Lenore added in typical motherly fashion, “they were perfectly fit.”

For Elaine, “I think one of the greatest blessings in my life has been the constant love and support from my family and friends. God has provided me with countless supporters who are cheering me on from the other side of the world, and their calls and letters have made all the difference in my preparation for the Olympics.”

For those close to her -– such as her friends at tiny Trinity Christian Academy (with an enrollment of about 350 for grades K-12) — Elaine’s success is a blessing to them as well. She has given them something special to cheer for, and has provided a way for them to be intimately connected to the Beijing Olympics.

“It is absolutely thrilling,” TCA headmaster James Armistead said. “Our whole mindset is preparing students to make a difference for the Kingdom. It’s great to see a young person who gives Christ the glory and embodies the highest level of commitment and dedication that you can imagine.”

    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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