The torch has been passed. The cauldron is lit. And the Winter Olympics in Beijing are officially open.
Despite accusations of genocide and numerous human rights violations, prompting international protests and a U.S. diplomatic boycott, the games will continue as scheduled.
The 24th Winter Olympics features 3,000 athletes from 91 nations, competing for medals in 109 different competitions.
If you’re looking for athletes to root for, we recommend following these five Christian competitors—and also a specific way you can pray for each of them.
Eric Staal, Hockey, Canada
In a 2018 interview with Promise Keepers Canada, Eric Staal said that playing hockey “is a chance to try to live our lives for God and show our fans and teammates that there are better things up above.”
As the captain of the Canadian team, Staal is no stranger to positions of leadership—and success.
He is the oldest of four brothers. And each of his brothers have followed in his footsteps (or ice skates) to the NHL.
Staal won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2010, a world championship in 2007, and a Stanley Cup in 2006. The rare trifecta of championships (Olympic Gold, Worlds, and the Stanley Cup) makes him a member of the unofficial “Triple Gold Club.”
While pursuing championships and medals, Staal still understands the importance of spending time in God’s word, though he admits the busy schedule makes it challenging.
Staal, a supporter of Hockey Ministries International, said “Hockey season is always a busy time — it’s a long year and sometimes it’s tough to find that study time, but when I do it’s always great and refreshing.”
Would you pray that Eric would lead Team Canada in a way that glorifies God—and that he would make time to engage with God through his Word at the Olympics?
Staal’s first game with Team Canada at the 2022 Olympics is on February 10 against Germany.
He will compete against the United States on February 12 and China on February 13 in pool play.
David Wise, Freestyle Skiing Halfpipe, United States
Since the sport’s introduction to the Winter Games in 2014, only one man has stood on top of the podium and claimed the gold medal in the men’s halfpipe skiing. That man is David Wise.
In Sochi, David Wise became the first Olympic gold medalist in the event after posting an incredible score of 92.00.
Four years later in PyeongChang, Wise defended his title, winning the gold by .8 points.
Wise attributes part of his success to his faith in God—not because God miraculously makes him go faster, but because his trust in God grounds him in humble confidence. He seems to have a growing understanding that his identity is not built up or torn down based on his skis, but in who God says he is.
In a post on his blog from 2018, Wise said:
I appreciate the opportunity to represent my country, my hometown and MY people in the Olympics this year more than I knew I was capable of. I also know that all of this is temporary, and that is ok. Everything that I have is a gift from God, and He can take it away when He wants to. I am surrounded by people who truly love and support me for who I am, not what I do on a pair of skis and not for any level of success I could attain.
Would you pray that he would continue to find his identity in God, whether he takes first or last?
Wise will look to win the Olympic gold for the third time in Beijing.
Watch David Wise compete in free ski halfpipe on February 16 (qualifying) and February 18 (final). Follow him on Twitter at @MrDavidWise.
Elana Meyers, Bobsledding, United States
“I’m in this sport to glorify God.”
Elana Meyers enters her fourth Winter Olympics with two silver medals and one bronze.
She wasn’t always a bobsledder. In fact, she started her athletic career as a star softball player. She was George Washington University’s first softball recruit and saw quick success, breaking several records in her young career.
After failing to make the U.S. Olympic Softball team in 2003, she turned her attention to bobsledding.
“I emailed the [U.S. bobsled] coach, they invited me to Lake Placid, New York to try out, and two weeks later I made the national team,” says Meyers.
While Meyers has experienced loads of success, her ultimate purpose transcends the accolades.
“God put me here for a specific reason and I don’t think it’s just to win medals,” she adds. “At the end of the day, I’m in this sport to glorify God, so if that means I come in last place or I win the gold medal, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Part of glorifying God through the sport of bobsledding, means leveraging the evangelistic opportunities that come her way. As Meyers put it:
“One of the big reasons I was put in bobsled is to help people not only reach their goals, but come to Christ.”
Would you pray that God would give Elana opportunities to share the love of Jesus with teammates—and competitors—during the Olympics games? And also that she would pass enough COVID tests to allow her to compete?
Watch Meyers compete in both women’s bobsled disciplines, the women’s monobob (February 13-14) and the two-woman event (February 18-19).
Paul Schommer, Biathlon, Unites States
Paul Schommer doesn’t just want to talk about God on his social media platforms. He is striving to live a life that fully integrates his faith with his sport.
“I don’t want [people to see] I’m a Christian only from my Facebook profile. I want it to be a life lived in a way that it’s like, ‘There’s something different about him.’”
Schommer competes in the biathlon. It’s the unique sport that involves cross country skiing—and rifle shooting.
A former high school wrestler, Schommer will be competing in his first Olympic games in Beijing.
He credits discipleship through FCA for much of his spiritual growth:
When I started going to FCA, I really started to see [my faith] wasn’t something that was just supposed to be inside the four walls of the church. It was supposed to go out into the world; it was a lifestyle. My FCA leader in high school took me under his wing and became my mentor as I grew up. He was the first person I met who I saw really living this thing out. He had this joyful heart and an obedience because he had this revelation at some point in his life where this is worth it. FCA is where I really started to take hold of the fact that we can be transformed by this gospel in a way that frees us.
Would you pray that Paul would model his Christian faith in Beijing in a way that allows competitors and fans to see him integrate two seemingly different avenues (sports and faith) into a fully integrated life for God’s glory?
Watch Paul compete on February 5 in the 4×6 kilometer mixed relay.
Nicole Hensley, Hockey, United States
After winning the gold medal with Team USA in the 2018 Winter Olympics, Hensley is back in the net as the goalie for the 2022 squad.
And she will take the ice knowing the gifts God has given her to steward are an opportunity to touch the lives of others:
I feel that with the abilities and love for hockey that God has given me, He’s also given me a bit of a platform to possibly reach others who are wondering about their faith, or maybe don’t have any faith, or want to grow stronger in their faith. Maybe it’s a way to start a conversation with somebody.
Hensley, who regularly uses her social media platforms to share various Bible verses, knows her spiritual growth is a process without a finish line. “As an athlete, my faith has calmed me down on the ice and helped me realize too that the result is not necessarily the most important thing,” she says. “It is more important to be on the ice and enjoy the chance to play when God has given me such a passion and ability in this game.”
Would you pray that Nicole would experience God’s presence with her on the ice and would continue to grow in her understanding of what it means to compete for him?
Watch Nicole Hensley and Team USA hockey compete in their first match against Finland on February 3. You can follow her on Twitter.