I grew up going to church at CPC and I believed in Jesus, but swimming kind of consumed my life. When I went to the University of Texas for college, I had some difficult times that made me wonder, What is really the center of my life? I always thought my faith came first, but swimming was so much harder in college. I realized I was putting all my energy into it, prioritizing it over everything else, and I wanted to change that.
I got in touch with some great Christian mentors who helped me see how Christ can be in, rather than separate from, sports. I had always struggled with wondering how I could be super competitive and have this desire to win, but also be following Jesus, who doesn’t really care if I win a race. I decided my primary goal in life is glorifying Christ and this gift God’s given me can be used to teach others about who He is as I live according to His Word. Resetting my priorities completely changed me as a person and also as a swimmer. My new perspective of competing in a Christlike manner motivated me and made me love the sport again.
There haven’t been a lot of times that I’ve shared the Gospel in the pool, but it’s been cool when it happens! A lot of being a witness for Jesus is the way I interact with others, following His example from His life on earth. Whether it’s encouraging the other swimmers through a hard set, or seeing someone is having a bad day and having a conversation with them, I look for ways to support or celebrate them.
After I graduated in December 2019, I thought I’d have six months before the Olympic Trials. I wasn’t swimming very well at the time, but I decided to swim through the Trials and hang up my goggles after that. Then the Olympics were postponed, and I had to decide whether to swim for another year. Ultimately, I knew deep down I wasn’t ready to be done.
Alongside training, an internship, and a coaching job, I led a group of ninth graders in Commitment Class this year. It grew my faith more than I could have imagined! It forced me to examine what I believe and it held me accountable to live out what I was teaching the kids myself. I love my girls and it was a really special year with them. Through leading, I also found a community of young adults to talk about faith and walk through this time of life together.
I also attend church consistently on Sundays, which definitely puts my heart, mind, and head in the right place as I go into my week. Even when we want our faith to be the main priority, life happens between Sundays and can easily get in the way. Sunday worship is a good reset for me—like, hey, Jesus is what you live for . . . His way is what you’re called to.
Every season in swimming there’s a new beginning. When the pandemic hit, I couldn’t have imagined what this year would bring. It’s crazy how much a year can change you! I have time goals for the Olympic Trials, but it doesn’t really matter at this point, as long as I can swim smart, execute my races well, and enjoy the experience. I’m in a great place mentally and physically, and I’m grateful I can end my swimming career on a good note.
After this meet is over, it’s going to be my newest beginning ever—I’ve never really known a life without competitive swimming! I’ve been learning how to give up control and let Jesus come alongside me. Jesus doesn’t only care about me because I was good at swimming. He won’t leave my side as I go through this hard transition and figure out this next phase of life.
It doesn’t matter what else is in my life—sports, a job, friends, family—if I’m going to call myself a Christian, then Jesus needs to come first. It’s really easy to let God become smaller than the people in our life or for society’s views to become more important than what the Bible teaches. But I will keep choosing to live for Jesus because of what He’s done for me. There are definitely challenges and sins you have to fight against as a Christian in a competitive sport. Christ’s way doesn’t make life (or swimming) any easier, but in the end, living His way has made my life so much better. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.
Olivia left to participate in the Olympic Trials just days before this issue went to print.