A Catholic Guide to the 2012 Olympics

by Tom Hoopes
From Catholic Vote

In the quest to find Catholics who are living their Catholic identity in public life, I’m tracking down Catholic Olympians and other Catholics of note participating in London this summer. Let me know who I’m missing and I’ll fill out the picture.

photo: nbcolympics.com

Mariel Zagunis, two-time Olympic gold medalist in fencing, led the U.S. team in the Parade of Nations during the2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony in London. After her first Gold medal in Athens she witnessed publicly to her faith. She told the National Catholic Register in 2004:

“My faith in God really played an enormous role in my life, like never before, when I didn’t make the team in March,” the 19-year-old Zagunis said. “It was one of those disappointments in life that causes you to really take a look at what’s real and important and what matters.”

photo: plus.google.com

Lopez Lomong, another Catholic, carried the flag for the U.S. team in Beijing. At London in 2012, he will compete in the 5,000 meters (semis Aug. 8; final Aug. 11).

Lomong is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Abducted while attending Mass as a 6-year-old, he escaped from a rebel camp when he and other boys crawled through a hole in the fence. “Animals could have killed us or people could have got us and killed us,” he said, “but God was there to protect us.” He came to the United States at the age of 16 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007.

“God blessed me and gave me a lot of strength to be faithful and more determined with my life to overcome obstacles,” he told USA Today. “He had a vision for me. He knew I would come to America and have family.”

photo: usaswimming.org

Missy Franklin goes for gold July 30 in the 4X100-meter medley relay. I don’t know if it’s public yet, but the race is worth watching. As part of the American team, she holds the world record in the 4×100-meter medley relay.

Missy may not be Catholic but she gives a great testimony to Catholic education. In this great interview she shares what she thought of Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., when she walked in:

“From that first moment, I knew God was with me. Every day over the last three years, my faith has grown. One of my favorite times is going to our beautiful school chapel and spending time with God. This year, I attended Kairos with my Regis Jesuit sisters and it changed my life forever. I now really work on keeping my faith strong.”

photo: mmibigsplash.org

Kathleen Hersey is a swimmer who represented the United States in the Beijing Olympics, too. Her race, the 200-meter butterfly, is scheduled for Tuesday, July 31.

Her twitter page includes a Bible verse from the prophet Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you — oracle of the LORD — plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

She is adopted and the George Bulletin recounts how “she was so grateful that her birth mother chose life and that she was so grateful that her parents are her parents.”

photo: ryansecrest.com

Katie Ledecky will compete for the United States in the 800-meter freestyle race. Qualifying heats are Aug. 2; the race is Aug. 3.Catholic News Service reported on her faith witness: “I always pray right before a race,” Ledecky said. “The prayer I say is the Hail Mary.”  She credited the the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at Little Flower School in Bethesda with boosting her faith, calling them “great role models.”

photo: wikipedia

Gymnast Jordyn Wieber was the center of attention last night when she heartbreakingly failed to qualify individually in gymnastics, not because she wasn’t good enough, but because each nation was limited to two. She will still compete in the team competition.

Jordyn is featured in the July/August Faith Magazine (Diocese of Lansing) here she says:

“I like to look at my gymnastics ability as a great gift from God,” she says. “Without God in my life, I feel like there would be no meaning. She attributes her faith to her parents. “My parents have always made going to Church as a family important,” Jordyn says. “Sometimes we have to split up due to our schedules, but most of the time we are able to get to Mass together.”

photo: nauathletics.com

Diego Estrada, a Focus Bible Study leader, is a distance runner competing in the 10,000 meters for Mexico. He was a part of the Northern Arizona University chapter of Focus, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (Focus was founded at Benedictine College, by the way …).

“Catholicism and Christianity is a big part of my daily life. I wake up with prayer. I go to bed with prayer. Before a race, I pray,” he told the National Catholic Register this year.

Non-Athletes …

Abbot Christopher Jamison of TV fame is the Catholic chaplain to the media.  He called the Olympic Village “a temporary parish.” The Catholic 2012 office told Our Sunday Visitor: “We are ready to welcome the world to our nation and to bear witness to Christ’s love, and above all his peace.”

Brother Colm O’Connell, coach, is “The Humble Irish Monk Who Put Kenya On Top.” The UK Independent recently told the story of the geography teacher who became a running coach.  The report explains: “Brother Colm has been largely responsible for the relentless rise of Kenyan distance running, tapping in to the vast natural talent from the Iten and Eldoret area that has passed through the doors of St Patrick’s, a boarding school for 700 boys of 15 and over.”

Of Note …

Big Pulpit passed on some key Olympic news, including:

John Pius Boland was a two-time Olympic Champion before he became a former Catholic Truth Society. The Catholic Truth Society is a remarkable British organization that publishes tracts that are professional, deep and accessible. I personally credit them with giving me an excellent background in the faith I was rediscovering while studying abroad. My wife buys their publications for her confirmation students.

Perpetual adoration is being offered Olympic visitors at St. Francis of Assisi’s Church, east London, reports the Catholic Herald.


About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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5 Responses to A Catholic Guide to the 2012 Olympics

  1. kathleen says:

    UK’s long jump athlete, Chris Tomlinson, (whose pic I put on my Olympic post a few weeks ago) should not be forgotten. He unashamedly wears a crucifix round his neck to prove his Christian beliefs, His wife is a Catholic, and recently they celebrated the Baptism of their little son.


  2. I’m exceptionally proud to hear a FOCUS missionary is among our “Catholic delegation.” Congratulations Diego Estrada and our other Olympians.


  3. toadspittle says:

    Good idea here, from Sed. Instead of nationalities, let’s divide up the competitors into religions and/or philosophies.

    Mens’ 400 Meters Hurdles:
    Gold: M. Romney, Mormon.
    Silver: B. Mussolini, Catholic.
    Bronze: R. Dawkins, Atheist.

    (Toad made the names up.)


  4. annem040359 says:

    Thank-you for that wonderful presentation of these athletes! Good job in regards with reporting on the Americans. 🙂


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