Sometime last week, I was watching Nicola McDermott, an Aussie, who was competing in the high jump for the gold medal at the Olympics. Something about her preparation before her jump made me wonder if she is a Christian. I’ve seen athletes look up to the sky, like football players as they celebrate scoring a goal but Nicola was different. There was a warm glow of joy about her as she looked heavenward and mouthed off something. She looked like she was praising God! Then her final ritual, yelling, ‘Come on’ to herself before making the jump which she cleared comfortably. She returned to her spot, sat down and journaled. She did this after every jump. As the camera zoomed in on her journal, a drawing caught my eye that looked like someone lifting their hands in praise to God.
My suspicions were confirmed when I googled her after. She went on to clear 2.02 metres, an Australian record which she had already broken twice before. The first time was at the 2021 Australian Track and Field Championships when she became the first Australian woman in history to clear the 2m. Twelve weeks later in July, she cleared 2.01m at an international event in Stockholm. Her jump at the Olympics won her a silver medal and in doing so, she became the first Australian woman (the 5th Australian) to win an Olympic high jump medal since 1964, also in Tokyo. If you watched closely, you would’ve spotted a biblical reference on her wrist which reads, “Jesus makes all things new”.
At an interview she explained, “As a teenager, I was always like an outcast and I got welcomed into a faith community that loved me. I remember encountering God’s love and it changed the way I thought of myself as a misfit”. On her website she writes, “Everything changed when I was introduced to Jesus. It was not the religious kind of meeting that presents itself once a week, but it was an intimate encounter, which has impacted every single day of my life since I made a decision to follow Him. This decision has overflowed a love in my heart to see His will done and gospel known in every nation, stadium, school, church and community I travel to. High jump was once a performance-driven passion to bring meaning to life, yet now with God, it is an international platform to make the unbiased, consistent love of the King known”.
Continuing with the interview, she said her relationship with God gave her passion and purpose. “…I think in 2017, it was my big moment when it flicked a switch, and I decided to pursue God over sport and whatever comes with sport is a bonus. But I am already complete and perfect in love regardless of it”. She so reminds me of Simone Biles, the great American gymnast whom I wrote about in the August E-news.
The large turning point in her career when she realised that lasting satisfaction to her heart was not found in a gold medal but in the person of Christ, led her to begin a ministry called, “Everlasting Crowns”. It is an outreach to fellow athletes ‘transformed by Jesus’s perfect love, planted in churches and discipled to be a blessing to every place they are sent”.
Praise the Lord for such a witness in the frontline of international sports. Let’s pray for her and for all of us that we might continue to be a blessing to every place we are sent!
p/s You can visit her website at: https://nicolamcdermott.com