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‘God is my biggest fan,’ Olympics rower says

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. 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)–Rowing wasn’t even on Anna Cummins’ radar as she prepared to enter college at the University of Washington. In high school she competed in basketball and track, and she expected to run in college.

But Cummins soon discovered that God’s plans for her didn’t include track.

“I grew up as a pretty good miler, and running was integrally part of my character,” said Cummins, a member of the U.S. Olympic rowing team. “When I was not recruited to the University of Washington track team, but rather the rowing team, it took a lot of prayer to let go of the old and try the new. Little did I know that God made me perfectly to row.”

Cummins, competing in her second Olympics, is part of both the women’s eight and the women’s pair teams. In the women’s eight, Cummins and her American teammates will race in the finals on Aug. 17. In the earlier women’s pair, she and her partner Portia McGee didn’t qualify for the finals.

She didn’t win a medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. This time, her goal is the gold. Cummins credits her coach, Tom Terhaar, with helping to improve on her weaknesses, mainly her technical skills.

“The technical changes I acquired helped me to get more out of each row,” Cummins said. “Also, my strength has increased as a result of these more efficient rowing practices. I have no regrets and feel ready for my best in Beijing.”

Cummins’ journey to Beijing began during her college years. Her high school track coach had connections with the rowing coach at the University of Washington and helped her plan a visit with the team. Cummins admits to knowing nothing about the sport.

“One of the coaches I met said I could take rowing as far as I wanted before I had ever even taken a stroke, and she was so sincere,” Cummins said. “She really believed, so I thought, why not give it a try for a year? Two Olympic Games, four world titles and four NCAA championship trophies later, I’m still at it.”

Her journey to faith began much sooner, when she was in the fifth grade. Her parents decided that something was lacking in the life of their family, so they began attending church.

For the first time, Cummins began learning about God and the story of redemption.

“My youth pastor helped me to see that even though I was a really good kid, I wasn’t perfect and I needed Jesus, so that I could be in a right relationship with God,” Cummins recounted. “I gave my life to Jesus and my life has never been the same.”

Cummins’ faith propels her to serve those in need. She’s an athlete ambassador for Team for Tomorrow, an ongoing humanitarian relief effort of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams that encompasses donations, volunteerism, disaster services, advocacy and other relief contributions. This fall, as part of Team for Tomorrow, she’ll be involved in the Seattle area with building houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Her belief in Christ also gives purpose to the sport that she 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 not matter how I do. And, He has the toughest expectations -– perfection -– so I’m always trying to improve.”

    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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