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FROM THE OLYMPICS: Gold medals by 2 Christian athletes come by faith

BEIJING (BP)–U.S. discus thrower Stephanie Brown Trafton and U.S. rower Anna Cummins were strengthened by their faith in God as they both captured gold medals in the Beijing Olympics.

Trafton, who has been leading a Bible study in Olympic Village, threw 64.74 meters on her first of six throws in the women’s discus finals Aug. 18. That distance held up, as Trafton won the gold medal — her first on the international level.

“I realized that Christ has the ability to make the impossible possible in my life,” Trafton said before competing. “I believe now that I can do the things that He has placed in my path while looking to Him for strength.

“The outcome of my season is out of my direct control, but as long as I stay disciplined, I know that I can,” she added. “If it is God’s will, I will accomplish my goal of winning an Olympic medal.”

Cuba’s Yarelys Barrio took the silver with a throw of 63.64 meters. Trafton’s gold is the first U.S. gold medal in the discus since 1932 when Lillian Copeland won the event at the Los Angeles Olympics.

Cummins, whose youth pastor helped lead her to Jesus, won the gold medal in the women’s eight event at the Shuny Rowing-Canoeing Park. Cummins and her teammates led wire-to-wire and turned in a final time of 6:05.34, almost two seconds faster than the Netherlands. Romania took the bronze.

Her belief in Christ also gives purpose to the sport Cummins has come to love so much.

“Because God gives me my worth and I can’t earn it through rowing, I feel I am less prone to go through the ups and downs associated with my performance,” Cummins said. “God is my biggest fan. He will always love me no matter how I do. And, He has the toughest expectations -– perfection -– so I’m always trying to improve.”

In addition to Cummins, the U.S. team consists of Erin Cafaro, Lindsay Shoop, Anna Goodale, Elle Logan, Susan Francia, Caroline Lind, Caryn Davies and Mary Whipple. Visit Cummins’ website at www.mickelsoncrew.com.

Canada finished fourth in the women’s eight finals, with a time of 6:08.04, missing the bronze medal by 0.79 seconds. Jane Rumball, a member of the team, told Baptist Press she came to know Christ through rowing and now uses the sport as a way to worship God.

Among other results thus far:

— In the men’s 10,000 meter final Aug. 17, Rwandan Dieudonne Disi finished 19th with a time of 27:56:74, 55.57 behind the winner from Ethiopia. Disi was 14 years old when rebels murdered his parents and five siblings outside their Rwandan home.

“My father said we were all going to die. He said that he wanted the whole family to pray and prepare to go to heaven,” Disi told Athletes in Action. “My family started to pray but I went outside and hid in the garden. I heard the rebels knock on the door, it opened. They said something to my family. I understood that it was over. It was death.”

Disi said he was mad at God for what happened and he refused to pray for five years.

“A few years later I was asking myself why my family who had prayed was all now dead. Where are they now?” he told AIA. “But I had confidence that my family and friends who perished were in heaven. I realized that if I was ever going to see my family again, I needed to start praying again. The way to see my family again was through prayer.

“In the Bible it says that there is only one way to heaven — Jesus Christ,” Disi said. “If you are to get to heaven, it can only be through Jesus Christ. For me Jesus Christ is the way to heaven and the only way to God.”

Disi listened to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta on the radio in Rwanda, and in 2000 he realized he was a pretty good runner himself. In 2004, Disi placed 17th in the men’s 10,000 meter in Athens. He didn’t expect to win a medal because just getting to the Olympics was a significant achievement, Disi told AIA. Rwanda has never won an Olympic medal since making its debut at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

— Women’s three-meter springboard diving: Nancilea Foster finished in eighth place in the final round Aug. 18, with teammate Christina Loukas finishing ninth. Foster, featured in Baptist Press on Aug. 14, tallied 316.70 points; Loukas, 315.70. Chinese divers Jingjing Guo (415.35 points) and Minxia Wu (389.85) won the gold and bronze medals, respectively, while Julia Pakhalina of the Russian Federation (398.60) won the silver.

— Women’s basketball: The U.S. team will begin quarterfinals play against Korea Tuesday, having compiled a 5-0 record in preliminary competition. Also in the quarterfinals are Australia (5-0), China (4-1), Russian Federation (4-1), Spain (3-2), Czech Republic (2-3) and Belarus (2-3). Tamika Catchings, featured in an article at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ www.fca.org website, is atop the event’s leaders in field goal percentage (.789), hitting on 15 of 19 attempts, and 3-point percentage (.833), hitting 5 of 6 shots.

— Baseball: The U.S. team is 3-2, having topped China 9-1 Aug. 18. Left fielder Matt LaPorta -– featured in Baptist Press on Aug. 12 –- is one of six U.S. players with a home run and one of six players with 3 or more RBIs but otherwise is struggling at the plate with a .067 average.

At the end of competition Aug. 18, in the overall medal count the United States had 72 (22 gold), China had 67 (39 gold) and the Russian Federation had 36 (eight gold) to lead the standings.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach & editor Art Toalston.

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