From CSJ Reports –
In part three of our five-part series, we continue to look at the top 25 Christian sports stories of 2016. Join us as we count down from #15 to #11 featuring highlights from the Olympics, Major League Baseball, college football, and college hoops:
15. David Boudia Wins Two Olympic Diving Medals
After shocking the world with his gold medal performance at the 2012 London Games, David Boudia returned to the Olympic diving stage where many wondered if he could defend his 10-meter platform title in Rio.
Boudia first competed in the 10-meter synchro event and won the silver medal with teammate Steele Johnson. Afterwards, both athletes made bold professions of faith.
“We both know our identity is in Christ,” Boudia told reporters.
A few days later, Boudia faced off against the world’s greatest competition. He found himself in the top three throughout most of the event and ultimately claimed the bronze medal and fourth career Olympic medal.
“It’s all about glorifying God,” Boudia told Christian Sports Journal. “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.”
14. Jose Altuve Wins Batting Title, MLB Accolades
It was a banner year for Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. In his sixth Major League season, he was selected to his fourth All-Star game and won the American League batting title with a .338 average. Altuve also had an MLB leading 216 hits and an AL best 30 stolen bases.
For his efforts, the shortest player in baseball (5-6) was named The Sporting News Player of the Year and MLBPA Players Choice winner for Major League Player of the Year and AL Most Outstanding Player.
“I grew up in a family that always told me that to achieve success, we needed to have God first,” Altuve said in a video released by the Astros. “To achieve success wasn’t to get to the major leagues or have the best season in the world. The best success is to live your life the way God wants you to (live).”
13. Allyson Felix Sets Olympic Track & Field Record
Already one of the greatest American track athletes in Olympic competition, Allyson Felix added to her historic career at the Rio Games. Although she finished second in the 400-meter race (thanks to Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller’s dramatic dive across the finish line), Felix bounced back with gold medals in the 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relays.
In the process, she became the first female track and field athlete to win six Olympic gold medals and tied Merlene Ottey of Jamaica as the most decorated female in Olympic track and field history with nine total medals.
Raised in a pastor’s home, Felix has always placed her Christian beliefs at the forefront.
“My faith inspires me so much,” Felix once said. “It is the very reason that I run. I feel that my running is completely a gift from God and it is my responsibility to use it to glorify him. My faith also helps me not be consumed with winning, but to see the big picture and what life is really all about.”
12. Lamar Jackson Becomes Youngest Heisman Trophy Winner
Lamar Jackson didn’t enter the 2016 college football season as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, but he quickly claimed that distinction just a few games into his sophomore campaign.
After 12 games, the Louisville quarterback had racked up eye-popping numbers including 3,390 passing yards, 1,538 rushing yards, and a combined 51 touchdowns (30 passing, 21 rushing). Jackson threw for more than 400 yards on two occasions and accounted for eight touchdowns in the first half of the season opener against Charlotte.
On December 8, Jackson received the Walter Camp Award and the Maxwell Award. Two days later, he became the youngest recipient of the Heisman Trophy and first winner from Louisville.
“First and foremost, before I go further along in my speech, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Jackson said. “Without Him, none of us would be here right now tonight.”
11. Pat Summitt Succumbs To Alzheimer’s, Is Remembered For College Basketball Greatness
The sports world lost one of its true icons in June of 2016 when legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt lost a five-year battle against Alzheimer’s disease. Former players, coaching peers, and other notable figures quickly emerged to sing her praises and recount her incomparable achievements.
Summit won 1,098 career wins (the most in NCAA basketball history), eight NCAA championships (third most in NCAA basketball history), and two Olympic medals (gold as a coach in 1984 and silver as a player in 1976). In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Summitt the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That same year she received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2012 ESPY Awards.
Although private about her faith, those closest to her, including her son Tyler and the congregation at her home church in Knoxville (Faith Promise), knew that her commitment was consistent and unshakeable.
“I know that everything I’ve been given came as gifts from God,” Summitt once told biographer Sally Jenkins. “And He has a way of reminding us, ‘This is my work.’ God’s plan is a mystery to me. I just know that I was given certain work to do.”
(Photos: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil, Team USA via Flickr, aaronisnotcool, Eric Enfermero)