Cindy Klassen is the toast of Canada. Yesterday she won a gold medal in the women’s 1,500-meter long-track speed skating event. It was her fourth medal of the games. She had previously won a bronze in the 3,000-meter event, a silver in the team pursuit and a silver in 1,000 meter competition. She still has one event left to compete in: the 5,000-meter which will take place on Saturday. While it is not her strongest event, who can deny the possibility that she might walk away from Turin with a fifth medal?
Klassen, like Canada’s last great speed skater, Catriona LeMay Doan, is a Christian. Like LeMay Doan, she is outspoken about her beliefs. This is a rarity in Canada where celebrities and athletes do not commonly boast, and rarely boast lightly, about their Christian beliefs. Living Light News says “Klassen desires to be as open about her faith as former teammate and gold medalist, Catriona LeMay Doan, who told City Light News, ‘It’s my relationship with Jesus that gives me true significance.’ Inspired by Doan’s boldness, Klassen says, “I want to use the publicity I’ve gotten through my success for His glory. I go back to my old high school and talk to the students. I … let people know I’m a Christian.”
“At McIvor Mennonite Brethren Church and Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, cards have been distributed encouraging prayer for her during the competition. ‘Cindy asks we pray that God is first in her life as she maintains good health in the face of the very best competition,’ the cards say, along with pictures of her and a schedule of her races.” Ken Reddig, director of the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, says “Her faith in Christ is very important to her. She does not ask that we pray for her to win, just that she can perform at her peak. I greatly respect that humble, confident but also mature attitude.”
Klassen, in words vaguely reminiscent of the great Eric Liddell, says, “I’m thankful for everything God has given me…God has given me this gift to be able to skate and race, and he wants 100 percent of me.”
It has been inspiring to watch Klassen compete at these Olympics, knowing that she does so for the glory of God. After the 2002 Olympics, in which she won a bronze medal, she reflected on the value of that honor. Her words are surely as true today as they were four years ago. “I’ve won a medal, but that’s nothing compared to the crown I’ll get in Heaven. I see a lot of people in sports who think when they reach a certain level they’ve got it made, but really, you can only find happiness in the Lord.” It seems that Klassen is taking seriously the admonition of Jesus Christ who said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I, and millions of other Canadians, will be cheering for Cindy on Saturday. But as a Christian I also have the joy and responsibility of praying for her, that she would use this platform she has been given for the glory of God. I pray that she will, for in so many ways, Canada is a dark nation desperately in need of some light.