If you’ve followed the Olympics in Rio, then you’re probably already familiar with the U.S. diving duo of Steele Johnson and David Boudia, but their amazing back story is finally starting to make headlines.
You see, these amazing divers are also devout Christians who’ve faced bigger things than a podium, including death.
Here’s Johnson sharing the moment that changed his perspective on life forever:
The book that inspired Johnson to tell his story is It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke!
Johnson was just 12 years old, practicing his favorite dive—a triple reverse somersault into a tuck position—when he literally cracked his skull on the concrete platform then fell 33 feet into the pool.
His coach quickly pulled him out of the water and rushed him to the hospital. While they were able to save his life, he still to this day has memory loss.
Doctors call it a “comeback” story, but Johnson sees it differently.
“I wanted to be the kid that had the big injury and came back from it and made the Olympics and all that stuff, so it’s kind of embarrassing. But now I’ve kind of realized that God had his hand over all of it to help me come to the realization, like, that’s not why at all.”
Johnson sees his story and his talents as an opportunity to give God glory.
“He gave me this ability to dive,” Johnson said. “God kept me alive and he is still giving me the ability to do what I do.”
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While other athletes are battling stage fright and the pressure of the Olympics, this diver has a different perspective.
“It’s cool because this is exciting, this is fun, but this is not what my identity will be for the rest of my life,” he said. “Yeah, I’m Steele Johnson the Olympian, but at the same time, I’m here to love and serve Christ. My identity is rooted in Christ, not in the flips we’re doing.”
It’s become common practice for athletes of faith to give God a shout out after their victory, but this is different. For Johnson and Boudia, it’s the depth of their faith that stands out. Instead of just saying, “We want to thank Jesus Christ,” these divers used their spotlight to claim both their thanks to God and their identity in Christ above their accomplishments in diving, above the Olympics in Rio and above all else.
When two athletes articulate such a deep and rooted faith, you know theirs a passionate love for the Gospel and a life commitment to bring glory to God—and it’s not just a token phrase.
It gets even better as Boudia, Johnson’s diving partner, shares his side of the story after winning the silver medal.
“We can’t take credit for this,” Boudia told NBC Sports. “To God be the glory.”
Boudia has talked very openly in the past about his faith, after the London Olympics he spoke these powerful words at his church…
“I am not a diving coach who happens to be a Christian,” he said. “But rather I am a Christian, follower of Christ, who happens to be a diving coach.”
“Whatever happens at the end of this Olympic Games is completely out of my control,” Boudia said back at the 2012 Olympics. “God is totally sovereign over everything.”
Let these amazing divers be a reminder to all of us—whatever we accomplish here on earth will always pale in comparison to the prize we have in Christ.
Amen to that.