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‘I’m going to go out and glorify God’s name’: the Christian athletes at the Rio Olympics

Novak Djokovic and Usain Bolt are among the Christian athletes competing this month

Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky revealed earlier this week that she says the Hail Mary before a race. With the Olympics opening ceremony taking place tonight, here are a few other competing athletes where prayer or faith is an important part of their lives.

Usain Bolt

The 29-year-old sprinter, commonly described as the fastest man in the world, crosses himself and offers silent prayers before every race.

The 6’5 man machine, whose full name is Usain St. Leo Bolt, will be competing in the men’s 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. After winning the 200m in 2012, he tweeted: “I want to thank God for everything he has done for me.”

Novak Djokovic

The Serbian tennis player is currently world No. 1 in men’s singles, and favourite to win gold in Rio, with odds of 10/11. Although Djokovic is a member of the Serbian Orthodox Christian Church, he is reticent about religion in interviews, only going so far as to describe himself as a “person of faith”, in an interview with the Guardian in 2014, and will say a prayer to give thanks before each meal.

The tennis player at Rio with the most assured religious credentials might be Martin del Potro. The Argentinian and former world No. 4 met Pope Francis in 2013, gifting him the racquet he used to defeat Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open final.

Gabby Douglas

The US gymnast will be returning to the Olympics at Rio after winning the gold medal as individual all-around champion in 2012, at the age of just 16. The diminutive champion (she is 4’11) trains to Christian music, and has talked about her faith in the past, saying: “God has given me this amazing God-given talent, so I’m going to go out and glorify His name.”

David Boudia

Boudia is an American diver who won gold in the 10-metre platform dive at the last Olympics, and will compete in the same event at Rio. In March, he told NBC Olympics: “I always listen to the same song and prayer before every event.”

The 27-year-old was brought up Catholic, and started reading the Bible regularly when at college. Talking about his faith in relation to sport, he said: “I approach the practices and the competitions the same. I’m at peace when I’m doing those things and it’s for God and His glory.”


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