EDITOR’S NOTE: BPSports editor Tim Ellsworth was in Vancouver for Baptist Press’ coverage of the Winter Olympics, with credentialing from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Today’s story concludes Ellsworth’s reports about various Christian athletes and how they fared in their respective competitions.
VANCOUVER (BP)–U.S. speedskater Chad Hedrick won his fifth career medal Feb. 27 when he captured silver in the men’s team pursuit competition, tying him with Eric Heiden for the most medals ever won by a men’s U.S. long track speedskater.
“I am very happy to be walking away from Vancouver,” Hedrick said. “This is my fifth medal, all in different distances. Major accomplishment for me, and the next step in life is going to be a lot of fun.”
The U.S. team of Hedrick, 32, and 19-year-olds Brian Hansen and Jonathan Kuck finished .21 seconds behind the Canadian team in the final after upsetting the Netherlands in the semifinals. The race was the last competitive event for Hedrick, who is retiring from speedskating.
Hedrick said his mission in Vancouver was to show the world that he is a different person than he was in 2006, when he won three medals in Turin, Italy. Once considered to be the “Paris Hilton of speedskating” for his active nightlife, Hedrick has since married and had a daughter; in recent months he also had become a Christian and was baptized.
On the top of his skating blade he has written the letters “CGIM,” which stands for “See God in me,” as a reminder to himself that the world is watching.
“The Olympics has changed me as a person and I am happy with the results as I leave here,” Hedrick said. “I am happy with the person I am.”
Hedrick’s medal in the team pursuit and his bronze medal in the 1,000 meters were two of the record-breaking 37 medals won by the U.S. Olympic team in Vancouver. The 37 medals were the most ever won by any nation in the Winter Olympics. The host nation of Canada took the most gold medals in Vancouver, with 14.
In other competitions over the weekend, U.S. bobsledder John Napier, who was recently baptized at Lake Placid (N.Y.) Baptist Church, crashed near the end of the track in the second heat of the four-man bobsled competition Feb. 26. Napier and his teammates were in seventh place after the first heat.
“I had a good trip going,” Napier said. “Going 95 miles an hour, you make a mistake, there’s no catching it. There’s no making mistakes on this track, especially in four-man bob. Like I said earlier this week, it’s going to challenge the best drivers in the world and it definitely challenged me today. It got me, but it’s OK. I’m just blessed and happy that God blessed us and kept us all safe. Everybody who crashed today, nobody was severely injured as far as I know and that’s a real blessing.”
Napier still crossed the finish line after the wreck and originally planned to race in the final two heats the next day, but he withdrew after suffering a strained neck in the crash.
Canadian bobsled pilot Lyndon Rush, an outspoken Christian who prays with his teammates before each run, finished in third place to win the bronze medal, the first Canadian medal in bobsled in 46 years. Rush was in second place after three heats, but finished .01 seconds behind the second-place team from Germany.
“We had ’em for three heats and to give it away in the last heat, I was mad,” Rush said. “Yeah we won an Olympic bronze, but I like racing, right, and when you come up short on the last heat you’re mad.”
“But it’s starting to set in. My guys did a great job and I’m pretty happy with my race. I don’t know how much better I could have been.”
The U.S. bobsled team of Steven Holcomb, Steve Mesler, Curtis Tomasevicz and Justin Olsen won the gold medal, the first gold for the United States in bobsledding since 1948.
Competition in the 2010 Olympics concluded Feb. 28, with the Canadian men’s hockey team defeating the U.S. team 3-2 in overtime to win the gold medal. During the closing ceremony that night, the Olympic torch was passed to Sochi, Russia, which will host the Games in 2014.
Tim Ellsworth, in addition to his work for BPSports, is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. For additional BP stories from the Winter Olympics, go to http://www.bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=166. For Tim Ellsworth’s Olympics blog, go to http://www.bpnews.net/blog/.