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Jul15WedWas the race over for rower Sarah Chaudhery? July 15, 2015 by Ken Ramstead
Is this the end? Sarah Chaudhery woke up with that thought running through her head. She'd been training hard to make the 2010 World Championship team but had just found out she'd been cut from the team.
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- Faith & Friends
Sarah's dream to make the 2012 Olympic team was dead in the water.
God, why isn't anything working out? she wondered.
Despite her bleak thoughts, Sarah's routine kicked in and she drove to the training centre for her early morning practice row. She held up her pass at the gate, tears streaming down her face.
The practice was a blur to her, as she was preoccupied with her thoughts. As she approached the boathouse, her former teammates and coach were there for their regular practice.
“Everyone has sacrificed for this!” the coach's voice boomed. “This is elite athletics!”
Today is a bad day to talk about sacrifice, she thought through bitter tears. I've lost everything!
Sarah hadn't planned to be an athlete. A pianist, she was registering for the music program at the University of Victoria when she saw posters for rowing tryouts.
“It was the only varsity sport you could try out for without any experience,” she laughs now. “But it clicked. I was in the right place at the right time, at the right height and the right weight.”
Sarah hadn't planned to row past the first school year but “it became a part of my life.
“It was rowing that brought me back to my faith, a faith that hadn't been very active in university,” she continues. Some of her teammates were Christians, and her reborn faith acted like a fuel to her daily practices.
“I wasn't consistently winning,” says Sarah, “but I would win at the right time. I thought I was living my dream.”
Now, though, it seemed everything was falling apart.
“What do you do when you believe you're following God's will, but things aren't working out as planned?” she asked herself.
Sarah was in the boathouse trying not to cry in front of her former teammates as she put her boat away.
I need a sign, God, she prayed through her tears. I'm done.
Looking down, she saw a poster on the bench, partially covered up by gear. It was an illustration of a runner crossing the finish line. At the top of the poster were the words, “NEVER, NEVER QUIT.” Intrigued, Sarah moved the gear to get a better look.
Below that was a quotation from the New Testament. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Philippians 3:13-14).
What are the odds of a Christian poster being in the change room, just when I needed to see it? she thought.
“This was a clear indication to me,” Sarah says. “I knew what I had to do: keep going.”
And she did.
“Where He Needs Me to Be”
Though she didn't make the team, Sarah went on to win bronze at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Mexico. But when she didn't make the 2012 Olympic team, Sarah knew her days as a professional rower had ended.
However, the contacts she'd made throughout her career bore fruit. She became director of operations for More Than Gold, an interfaith effort serving the Christian community through hospitality, outreach and prayer. Sarah's also the director of sporting events and outreach for Scripture Union Canada, part of an international organization that reaches out to children and teens to share faith.
“I've reached more people through my public speaking now than I ever could have had I stayed an athlete,” she says. “I share my love of God with hundreds of people every year. I am not where I prayed I would be when I was a rower, but I am where I need to be—where God needs me to be.”