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FIRST-PERSON: In lieu of a snowboarding medal, she intends to carry a witness

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–Snowboarding probably isn’t the first sport you think of when it comes to the Winter Olympics, dude.

No, snowboarders are usually considered to be “extreme” athletes who risk their personal well-being, guzzle Mountain Dew and hang out with the likes of skateboarders and street lugers. Some critics have even suggested snowboarding doesn’t belong in the Olympics at all.

But U.S. snowboarders put their sport on the Olympic map this week.

First, 18-year-old Kelly Clark captured the gold medal in the women’s halfpipe competition on Sunday — the first gold medal for the United States at the Salt Lake City games.

Then on Monday, three Americans swept the men’s halfpipe competition — Ross Powers took the gold, followed by Danny Kass with the silver and J.J. Thomas with the bronze.

It was an impressive performance by the American contingent, especially since the United States isn’t traditionally strong in the Winter Olympics.

“Snowboarders have their reputations,” Clark said. “But my doing this, especially in the U.S., says a lot. Maybe it will shine a light on snowboarding, and people will look at it in a different way.”

I’ll have to admit that snowboarding’s not the Olympic event that turns me on the most. I’d much rather watch ski jumping, luge or hockey. But I have absolutely no problem with snowboarding being an Olympic event. Doing what snowboarders do certainly requires a tremendous amount of athletic ability. Maybe now they’ll get more of the recognition they deserve.

Plus, there’s just something about snowboarders you have to like. During Clark’s gold medal performance, Blink 182’s “This is Growing Up” blared in her headphones. You don’t usually hear about bobsledders doing stuff like that.

The medal winners weren’t the only Americans to do well in the snowboarding competition. Shannon Dunn-Downing finished fifth for the women, while teammate Tricia Byrnes was sixth.

Dunn-Downing might have been one of the favorites going into the competition. She won the bronze medal in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, the first time snowboarding made its appearance in the Olympics. This time around, however, Olympic glory managed to elude her.

But don’t feel sorry for Dunn-Downing. A committed Christian, she knows there’s more to life than gold medals.

“I don’t have to snowboard, because that’s not the most important thing in my life,” Dunn-Downing said in the latest edition of Sports Spectrum magazine. “My relationship with God is.”

Though she didn’t win a medal, Dunn-Downing hopes her stay in Salt Lake City will be fruitful in another sense. She wants to be a witness for Jesus Christ to her fellow Olympians.

“Being in Salt Lake City, where there are so many Mormons, I know religion is going to come up,” she said. “It will be hard, because even if I say I believe in Jesus, they say the same thing. I’m going to pray a lot for an opportunity to share God’s words.”
Tim Ellsworth’s column appears weekly in BPSports, at www.bpsports.net.

    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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