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Here are the top faith-filled moments from the Olympics

August 10, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz proudly displays her Olympics gold medal and the Miraculous Medal, a devotional medallion depicting the Virgin Mary. / Hidilyn Diaz’s Instagram Stories

Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2021 / 12:01 pm (CNA).

The games of the 32nd Olympiad closed on Sunday, bringing an end to more than two weeks of competitions featuring the world’s most talented athletes with a global audience. 

Some competitors, however, made it clear that they were playing not only for national pride and a piece of hardware, but also for a greater purpose. 

Here are some moments where athletes shared their faith on the world’s stage:

A Miraculous Medal for a miraculous victory

On the third day of the games, Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for her country. Diaz, who competed in the women’s 55kg event, set an Olympic record with her clean and jerk of 127kg and a combined weight of 224kg. Her gold medal improved on her second-place finish at the 2016 games in Rio. 

Images of Diaz’s visibly emotional face on her final lift went viral, and after she successfully completed the lift, she repeatedly said “Thank you, Lord” and clutched her Miraculous Medal necklace. 

After the Philippine national anthem was played at the medal ceremony, Diaz stepped down from the podium, made the Sign of the Cross, and shouted “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!” (“Long live the Philippines!”)

Glorifying God in the pool

South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker left Tokyo with a gold medal in the 200-meter breaststroke and a surprise silver in the 100-meter breaststroke. Schoenmaker swam with a pair of cross-shaped earrings, and underneath her official Team South Africa-issued swim cap, Schoenmaker donned a white swim cap with the words “Soli Deo Gloria” (“Glory to God Alone”) written on it.

That swim cap was on display during the qualifying rounds in the 100-meter breaststroke, as her country’s cap nearly fell off her head in both races.

Sydney McLaughlin and Team USA run to glorify God

Sydney McLaughlin wrote on her Instagram following her first gold medal win that she prayed “my journey may be a clear depiction of submission and obedience to God.” 

“​​I have never seen God fail in my life. In anyone’s life for that matter. Just because I may not win every race, or receive every one of my heart’s desires, does not mean God had failed. His will is PERFECT,” she said.

After winning her second gold medal – on her 22nd birthday – McLaughlin thanked God for another year of life, and wrote that she looks “forward to unveiling where it takes me as you continue to establish my steps.”

McLaughlin’s teammates are vocal about their faiths as well. Athing Mu, a 19-year-old breakout star of the games, posted that her year had been one of faith and perseverance.

“In the end, I chose to grasp onto God and allow Him to take complete control of my life. It allowed me to take a step back, learn how to trust Him entirely and HAVE FAITH,” she said.

Marileidy Paulino wears her faith on her feet

Marileidy Paulino, the Dominican Republic track star, is leaving Tokyo with two silver medals: one in the mixed 4×400 relay, and another in the 400. She’s the first woman ever from the Dominican Republic to win an Olympic medal. 

After her second-place finish in the 400, Paulino told the Associated Press that she considered her medal a “miracle,” as she had only been running that distance for one year. 

On her spikes, Paulino wrote “Dios es mi esperanza,” Spanish for “God is my hope.” 

Wrestler goes viral for praising the Lord and her country

Female wrestlers are not household names in the United States, but Tamyra Mensah-Stock’s interview after winning gold in the Women’s 68kg freestyle competition went viral.

“It’s by the grace of God I’m able to move my feet. I just leave it in His hands,” she said, adding that she prayed that all of her hard work would be worth it. 

“And every single time it does, and I get better and better,” she said. “I’m excited to see what I have next.”

Jesus makes all things new

Nicola McDermott of Australia took the silver medal in women’s high jump competition, jumping a personal best 2.02 meters in the final. During each competition, McDermott not only wrote in her journal, but also wrote a devotional passage on her wrist. 

For the final, McDermott wrote “JESUS makes all things new,” with a cross drawn underneath. She told Australian media following her medal win that ​​when she was a teenager, she was “always an outcast” before joining a church. 

“I got welcomed into a faith community that loved me. I remember encountering God’s love and it changed the way that I thought of myself as a misfit,” she said.


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Gold medalist weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz inspires the Philippines with her victory and Catholic devotion

July 27, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz proudly displays her Olympics gold medal and the Miraculous Medal, a devotional medallion depicting the Virgin Mary. / Hidilyn Diaz’s Instagram Stories

Manila, Philippines, Jul 27, 2021 / 12:55 pm (CNA).

Philippine Catholic bishops congratulated the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, not only for her victory but for her show of faith and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Diaz’s triumph came in the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting event on July 26. She also set an Olympic record after lifting a combined weight of 224 kilograms.

After completing her final lift in a very close competition, Diaz held her hands to her face, burst into tears and clutched at her Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging from her neck.

“Thank you, Lord, thank you Lord,” she cried repeatedly after the winning lift.

Later on the podium at the medals ceremony, Diaz pointed heavenward after singing the Philippine national anthem, then made the Sign of the Cross before stepping down and shouting “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!” (“Long live the Philippines!”)

Diaz’s inspirational victory and public display of her Catholic faith touched the hearts of church leaders and Filipino Catholics watching from home and quickly went viral on social media.

“We admire her devotion to the Blessed Mother as she carried in her victory her great faith in God,” said Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the country’s bishops’ conference. “Hidilyn is a true weightlifter who draws her strength from her love for the country and her deep Catholic faith.”

Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila said Diaz has given inspiration to all Filipinos.

“Thank you, Hidilyn, for the tremendous honor you have bestowed on our country,” he said via Church-run Radio Veritas.

“Your success gives light, inspiration, and hope to all of us, especially in these difficult times,” he continued. “Thank you for the testimony of your strong faith in God and deep love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thank you for reminding us that there is no real success if it does not come from God.”

In a media interview on July 27, Diaz said her Miraculous Medal was given to her by friends before she departed for Tokyo earlier this month.

“They prayed a novena for nine days before my competition,” she told reporters, adding that she prayed a novena herself and is grateful for all the support her “prayer warriors” have given her.

A novena is a popular Catholic spiritual devotion consisting of the recitation of a set form of prayer for nine consecutive days, in petition for a divine favor or in preparation for a liturgical feast or as participation in an important event such as a Year of Jubilee.

Diaz said the religious medal is “a sign of our prayers and faith in Mama Mary and Jesus Christ,” adding that her faith in God is the major reason for her success. 

Diaz is the fifth of six children of a poor trike driver in a small village in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga.

In previous media interviews, the future Olympic gold medalist said that when she was a child she wanted to be a banker so that her mother would stop complaining about the lack of money.

A cousin, however, introduced the then-10-year old girl to weightlifting by training her with makeshift barbells made from plastic pipes with cast concrete weights at either end.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People of the bishops’ conference said Diaz’s victory showed that Filipinos can rise up to any challenge with God’s help.

“[S]he has shown to us that the Filipino can. We can rise up from all challenges in life. We can surmount all obstacles,” said the bishop.