By Chad Bonham
At the 2016 Rio Games, five young athletes captured America’s heart and made a global impact en route to one of the most dominant Olympic performances in women’s gymnastics history. As the last team to compete under national team coordinator Martha Karaolyi and with the teams now being reduced to four gymnasts, they dubbed themselves “The Final Five” and proceeded to not only win the team gold medal but a collective eight individual medals as well, including gold and silver in the All-Around event.
Off the mat, the multi-racial group became known for its openly diverse religious expressions, which included Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism. The team’s youngest member, Madison Kocian, for instance, tweeted a stylized picture quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 two months ahead of the Olympic Trials.
On the other hand, Gabby Douglas helped start the trend at the 2012 London Games where she led the team to a gold medal and became the first African-American gymnast to win the All-Around title. A few days earlier, she tweeted the Old Testament verse Joshua 1:9. Douglas also responded on Twitter with a Bible verse after enduring some harsh social media criticism for her hairstyle
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Romans 12:19/ESV)
“I take my Bible with me, sometimes two of them, when I travel,” she wrote in her book Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith. “I always pray at every competition, when the judge’s hand goes up I am praying, and there are little scriptures I like to quote.”
One of the team’s most active Bible verse sharers, however, was Laurie Hernandez who routinely posted inspirational thoughts on Twitter and Instagram throughout the year and leading up to the 2016 Olympics. In one tweet, she held up a card with the words “With God, all things are possible,” a paraphrase of Mark 9:23. She also shared a photo of herself competing in the floor exercise and used Matthew 5:16 as the caption.
This continued throughout the Olympics where she quoted Isaiah 40:31 on the same day Team USA cruised to the gold medal.
“I feel that every day God molds me into someone that he wants me to be,” she told Athletes In Action. “So if that means just, like talking to teammates and helping them out, or like every so often I’ll post a Bible verse on Twitter or Instagram.…There was one that I posted recently and I’m thinking it’s my favorite verse. It’s Proverbs 31:25. When I hear that, that’s me in a Bible verse. I don’t fear the future anymore.”
This devotional is brought to you by Museum of the Bible, a 430,000 square foot museum being constructed 3 blocks south of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in November of 2017.
(Photos: Agência Brasil Fotografias)