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Former gold medallist sacrifices job to share faith at Sydney Olympics

SYDNEY, Australia (BP)–The only man ever to defeat Carl Lewis in Olympic competition is running hard for God in Australia.

Twelve years after capturing a gold medal and setting an Olympic record in the 200-meter run in Seoul, Korea, Joe DeLoach is conducting sports clinics and speaking at athlete rallies as part of “Reach-Out 2000 Sydney” through Lay Witnesses for Christ International.

To make the trip, DeLoach resigned from his position as a computer systems engineer in Houston.

“If we are faithful to God and do our work as unto the Lord, he will provide,” DeLoach said. “Good jobs in computer systems are plentiful, but the opportunity to take part in a major evangelical outreach during the Olympics comes along only once every four years. The most important thing I can be doing is using my platform as a former Olympian to help reach people for Christ here in Australia.”

Following his gold medal performance in Seoul, DeLoach had planned on concluding his track career at the 2000 Olympics. However, a series of hamstring injuries prevented him from competing in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

“Our bodies and other people will let us down, but God never fails,” DeLoach said. “As precious as my gold medal is, it does not compare with the value of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My desire is to introduce Australians to a faith that is more precious than gold.”

DeLoach, Carl Lewis and scores of other Olympians are involved in the Reach-Out 2000 effort, which DeLoach considers to be more productive than most in which he has participated.

“The Aussies are very responsive to the gospel message,” DeLoach said. “They love sports and appear to be naturally hospitable to international visitors — especially athletes. It’s fairly simple to strike up a conversation that leads to a discussion about things that really matter in life.”

DeLoach, 33, and his wife, Melony, have three children and reside in Houston. They attend Trinity Fellowship Church.

Lay Witnesses for Christ International, based in Hurst, Texas, and led by Sam Mings, serves as “Chaplains to the world’s Olympians” and sponsors athlete rallies, hospitality centers and one-on-one evangelism during major sporting events. In addition, LWCI sponsors a “Right Track” drug and alcohol prevention program to help youth avoid the dangers of substance abuse and gangs; a speakers bureau; and the annual “Christian Athlete of the Year Awards.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo title: CARL LEWIS.

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