The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
Aug22MonGold-medal winning athlete says faith fuels her running. August 22, 2016 by Jayne Thurber-Smith
To congratulate Allyson Felix, who picked up three medals at the Rio Olympic Games this past week and has the most Olympic gold medals of any female runner ever, Faith & Friends is reprinting the cover story we published on her in 2009:
- Filed Under:
- Faith & Friends
"Have you ever caught a chicken?” Olympic track-and-field gold medalist Allyson Felix asks this question in an advertisement for Adidas, because in high school her skinny legs earned her the unwelcome nickname “Chicken Legs.” She used the taunts as motivation. “Even though my legs are skinny, I can still be strong,” she says. Rather than hiding them, she put on a pair of racing shorts, began to train, hit the track and never looked back.
Those skinny legs helped to make Allyson the world record holder of the junior 200-metre race, as well as a three-time world champion in the 200 metres. She won silver medals in that event in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and a silver medal in the 400-metre race in the 2016 Olympics, along with five Olympic gold medals as a member of the United States' women's relay teams.
Allyson ends the Adidas commercial by saying, “I suggest to anyone who is receiving negative comments about their ability, to use them to accomplish things maybe they think they can't.”
Living Out Her Beliefs
Allyson says that as a teenager it was hard not to feel sorry for herself when being teased.
“In the beginning I found it hard to take,” she remembers. “But by the end of my high-school career, I knew the legs the kids were making fun of were going to come in handy. I can laugh about it now.”
Allyson was the first American high-school track athlete to go directly into professional running, but she hasn't let success go to her head. On her website, AllysonFelix.com, she states she wants to use her abilities to glorify God and draw people to Him.
“My actions speak louder than words,” Allyson says. “I'm not perfect but I try to live out my Christianity and be a light for Him. That's my goal.”
Keeping Things Normal
Allyson stays clear of the potential celebrity pitfalls on the road by surrounding herself with Christian influences.
“I've never really been into the partying lifestyle,” she reflects. “It's not difficult to avoid because it's just not me. And I surround myself with the right people.
“Also, my mom is my Christian mentor,” she adds. “I always make time to talk with her and my close friends. I listen to online sermons and have my own personal time with God.”
While travelling to competitions, Allyson makes sure she feeds her faith. At the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, the U.S. team held Bible studies, which she attended.
Allyson's father, Paul, is an ordained minister, and her mother, Marlean, is an elementary-school teacher. They made an effort to raise their children right and they were always there to offer advice.
“Being a preacher's kid can be a lot of pressure,” Allyson admits, “but I think my parents did a great job of keeping things normal for us. They knew we shared their beliefs so they gave us freedom and they were confident in the way they raised us.”
Work Hard, Have Fun
Besides her athletic pursuits, Allyson has found time to work as an ambassador for the Children's Miracle Network, which helps raise money for children's hospitals.
“I've always had a passion for children,” she says, “and the platform I have from running lets me speak on causes I'm interested in. I visit hospitals around the country and spend time with amazing kids.”
Allyson plans to someday make use of her university degree in elementary education. “I'd like to get my master's degree in education,” she says. “I'm thinking one day I'll be teaching a classroom of fourth-graders.”
Allyson says the most difficult thing about track is the hard work and training that goes into getting ready for a big race, but acknowledges it's worth the effort. “I take joy in competing,” she says. “It's great to be able to race against the best in the world.”
To any future Olympic runners, Allyson encourages them to enjoy what they're doing. “Have fun with it and keep focusing on the gift God has given you,” she says. “Even when you're tired, keep your eye on the ultimate goal for motivation.” No matter what size your legs are.