Inspiring Athletes

Today, we continue with more from the Top Christian Sports Stories of 2012 featuring numbers 11-20 (in reverse order):

#20 Allyson Felix wins three gold medals at London Olympics

American sprinter Allyson Felix has been a golden girl at virtually every major meet that matters. But until this summer, she had yet to show her dominance at the Olympics. That all changed when Felix won three gold medals in London including her signature event (200-meter) and both sprint relays (4×100, 4×400).

“(Competing for Christ) makes a huge difference,” she once told FCA Magazine. “When you recognize that your athletic career is in God’s hands, it can keep you from getting caught up in the winning is everything philosophy that so many coaches and athletes follow.”

Read more from that interview at the link below:

An interview with Allyson Felix

#19 Matt Kenseth wins second career Daytona 500

It was a crazy night at the Daytona 500. After rain moved the race to Monday night, the Great American Race featured several high speed wrecks and a bizarre incident that saw Juan Pablo Montoya crash into a jet drier truck during a caution resulting in a massive fire and two-hour delay.

When the race finally concluded over six hours after its start, Matt Kenseth crossed the finish line first to claim his second career Daytona 500 victory (the first coming in 2009).

Last year, Inspiring Athletes posted an interview with Kenseth (and wife Katie) who talked about the importance of ministry at the track:

“Chapel services on race day have a calming effect,” he said. “It’s a nice time for us to worship and try to get the message and hear some music and have a little fellowship together before we get to racing.”

Read more of that interview by clicking the link below:

A conversation with Matt and Katie Kenseth

#18 Kevin Durant, Chris Paul fuel U.S. Men’s Basketball Team’s Olympic gold medal performance

There were few surprises from the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Well, Team USA won two of its games by less than 10 points and apparently that was somewhat of a story. But the bottom line held true for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and their NBA compatriots. After going undefeated and beating Spain 107-100 in the final game, the American squad, as expected, brought home the gold medal.

And while it was certainly a team effort, Kevin Durant and fellow Christian Chris Paul were key catalysts. Durant solidified his status as an international star with an Olympic record 156 points to lead the way. In a previous Inspiring Athletes interview, the surprisingly low-key athlete talked about how his faith has impacted his approach to playing the game.

“I’ve just got to be thankful to the Lord for what the gifts He’s given me,” Durant said. “My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can. I’ve got to continue to be that way.”

Read more from Kevin Durant by clicking the link below:

A conversation with Kevin Durant

#17 Jason Witten sets NFL single-season receptions record for tight ends

Jason Witten has quietly become one of the greatest tight ends to play the game. On December 23, the Dallas Cowboys star added a major NFL record as additional proof of that fact. In a game against New Orleans, Witten set a new single-season mark for most receptions by a tight end (103). He surpassed Tony Gonzalez’s 2004 record of 102 catches and had one regular season game remaining to move the bar even higher.

Witten has also been a quiet, steady leader in the locker room and is known around the league as one of the most spiritually sound players. He was also instrumental in leading teammate Tony Romo to Christ.

“Your legacy as an athlete means a lot, but God has got to have a huge impact on your life,” he told Sports Spectrum earlier this year. “I think about the way He can use me and what a platform we have as athletes. God doesn’t give you this talent just to win titles.”

Check out more of that interview by clicking the link below:

An interview with Jason Witten

#16 David Boudia breaks U.S. drought with Olympic platform diving gold

David Boudia shocked the diving community with an Olympic gold medal performance in the 10-meter platform event. His score of 568.65 was good enough for U.S. Diving’s first Olympic gold since Greg Louganis won his second consecutive title at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Boudia barely qualified for the semifinals by finishing in 18th place during the preliminary round. He then put together a solid semifinal round leading into an inspired final six dives. His performance was a major upset over Chinese diver Qui Bo who finished with the silver. The exciting final also included a surprising bronze medal for Great Britain’s Tom Daley.

Boudia’s gold medal added to his previous bronze medal performance in the 10-meter synchro platform event with teammate Nick McCrory. Earlier this summer, Boudia talked to Inspiring Athletes about his spiritual transformation and how his faith in Christ had radically changed his outlook on diving and on life.

“In 2008, diving was my god,” he said. “It was a forced competition. I needed to do well there if I wanted to do well later in life. But for this Olympics, I’m enjoying every moment, day by day because tomorrow’s not guaranteed…God is providing this platform so He can reveal Himself.”

Read the entire interview with David Boudia by clicking the link below:

A conversation with David Boudia

#15 R.A. Dickey claims National League Cy Young Award

Despite playing for the National League East’s fourth place team, New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey was a bright spot across the MLB landscape with a Cy Young Award winning performance. Even more amazing was the fact that Dickey won the honor as the only player to utilize the knuckleball as his predominant pitch. Dickey finished the season with a 20-6 record, 2.73 earned run average and 230 strikeouts.

But just prior to the season, it was Dickey’s autobiography Wherever I Wind Up that made the biggest impact. In his book, Dickey, who signed with Toronto during the offseason, discussed the abuse he endured as a child and shared his experience of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for human trafficking in Mumbai.

“I really felt that God gave me a very unique story and it took awhile for me to get the equipment to process it and the vocabulary to communicate it,” Dickey told Beliefnet earlier this year. “When these things started to happen, I felt a compulsion from God that he wanted me to share my story, even though it was very painful.”

Read more from that interview by clicking the link below:

An interview with R.A. Dickey

#14 Tamika Catchings, Maya Moore spur US Women’s Basketball Team to Olympic gold

With so much attention going to the U.S. men’s basketball team, it was almost a little too easy to overlook the dominance displayed by the American women. Team USA put any doubts to rest with an 86-50 victory over France en route to an unprecedented fifth consecutive gold medal. The gold medal game completed an undefeated 11-0 run for the U.S., which also scored its 41st consecutive Olympic win.

Leading the charge was three-time gold medalist Tamika Catchings along with star players Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Candace Parker. Catchings was part of a strong contingency of Christian players on the team that also included Angel McCoughtry and Maya Moore.

Check out the Inspiring Athletes interview with Tamika Catchings by clicking the link below:

A conversation with Tamika Catchings

#13 Peyton Manning comes back from career-threatening neck injury; leads Denver Broncos to AFC Playoffs

When Peyton Manning failed to play a single game during the 2011 season, many pundits believed his career was probably over. Manning’s neck surgery to alleviate neck pain and arm weakness led to a more serious surgery—a level one cervical fusion procedure.

The Colts released Manning at the end of last season and subsequently signed number-one draft pick Andrew Luck. But when the Denver Broncos signed him in March, speculation about his future intensified.

Not only did Manning prove the naysayers wrong, he ended up having a Pro Bowl season and led the Broncos to the AFC Playoffs. With one regular season game remaining, Manning had tallied 4,355 passing yards and 34 touchdowns (second most in his career). Described as a devout Presbyterian, Manning mentioned earlier this year how a Bible study was helping him deal with the challenging aspects of physical rehabilitation.

“I always felt it was very important to have a good relationship with the Lord,” Manning once said in another interview. “He always has to be your number one priority.”

#12 Webb Simpson wins U.S. Open

Webb Simpson charged from the back of the pack to overtake leaders Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell and win his first career PGA major at the 112th U.S. Open in San Francisco, Calif. His two under par performance on a stingy Olympic Club course was good enough for the one-stroke victory. He finished at plus one overall.

Earlier this year, Inspiring Athletes posted an interview with Simpson who talked about the importance of integrity and how his faith in God has allowed him to make tough decisions:

“Our deposit of the Holy Spirit living inside of us, more than anything, has allowed me to make those tough decisions,” Simpson said. “It’s happened probably 10 times in my life where I had to make certain calls and call penalty shots on myself. For me, it’s not as much the nature of the game but the fact that the Holy Spirit is prompting me to call a penalty on myself. Within our own nature, we don’t want to call a penalty on ourselves. We want to see how much we can get away with. That’s been a part of every tough decision I’ve made in golf.”

Read more of that interview with Webb Simpson by clicking the link below:

A conversation with Webb Simpson

#11 Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath lead US Women’s Soccer Team to Olympic gold

Tobin Heath and Lauren Cheney were among the women’s soccer players from to capture Olympic gold in consecutive Games. After narrowly defeating Canada in double overtime (4-3), the Americans shot out to a 2-0 lead and staved off a scurried comeback attempt by Japan. It was the third consecutive Olympic gold medal for the USA squad and helped ease the pain of last year’s shootout loss against Japan in last year’s World Cup final.

Prior to the Olympics, Cheney told Inspiring Athletes that despite last year’s loss (and despite what might happen at the Olympics), she would do her best to maintain the right perspective throughout the experience:

“I’ve learned to give God the praise in the highs and the lows.” she said. “Especially at such a high level, your life is a rollercoaster. Our lives are completely full of highs and lows. I’m so grateful that my confidence in Christ is never shaken. My identity in the Lord will never be shaken. My career will come and go but being faithful to that has made my relationship with Him what it is.”

Like Cheney, Heath went into the Olympics striving for the gold medal, but also keeping in mind that the journey is just as important as the destination.

“The Olympics is a very special event because you get to represent your country along with all the other sports,” she said. “One of my favorite things about soccer is how the art and the passion of the game somehow unites people and nations and classes and races. That’s something that comes out of the game and how it’s displayed and why people enjoy watching it and supporting it. Anytime you have an event like the Olympics or the World Cup, people get to enjoy it on such a huge scale.”

Read more from Cheney and Heath in the full Inspiring Athletes interviews linked below:

A conversation with Lauren Cheney

A conversation with Tobin Heath

Read more of the Top Christian Sports Stories of 2012 by clicking the link below:

Top Christian Sports Stories of 2012 (21-30)