OLYMPICS: Olympian says there's 'no atheist at the top of a bobsled run'

EDITOR'S NOTE: BPSports editor Tim Ellsworth has been in Vancouver for Baptist Press' coverage of the Winter Olympics, with credentialing from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Ellsworth has been writing about various Christian athletes and how they fare in their respective competitions. Additional reports are being provided by a media team from the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board on ministry-related initiatives in conjunction with the Winter Games.

WHISTLER, British Columbia (BP)--Lyndon Rush knows his sport gives him plenty of opportunities to be vocal about his faith in Jesus Christ, and he wants to make the most of those chances.

"You know there's no atheist in a foxhole, right?" Rush asked. "There's no atheist at the top of a bobsled run, either."

The Canadian bobsled driver, who is competing in his first Winter Olympics, takes advantage of the dangers in his sport, such as traveling at speeds in excess of 90 mph, to be a witness for Christ by praying with his teammates before their runs and by talking often about the Lord. He's found an openness to his spiritual leadership, even among teammates who don't profess to be Christians.

"I've had atheists on my team and they have no problem talking to God before the run," Rush said. "Everybody likes it. Even the atheists, for instance, they like how it sets the tone. We all come together and I pray about things that they want, too. Maybe they're not in a period of their life where they believe in God, I guess. I don't know. I don't really believe in atheists."

Rush may not believe in atheists (choosing instead to believe what Romans 1 says about all men knowing the truth but suppressing it in unrighteousness), but he does believe in his responsibility to share his faith with everyone, including atheists.

"I pray about the prayer before the race," Rush said. "God, lead me to say the right things and maybe touch these guys. I really care for the guys that I slide with. My team, they're like brothers. We go on tour and we get to know each other real well. It's a great chance for me to share what I believe. I want those to be believers who I care about, right?"

Rush grew up in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, and was raised in a Christian home. His conversion came at age 5 when he was playing golf with his dad.

"We were just chatting like father and son do," Rush said. "He told me about the stuff that I'd already learned in Sunday School. And he asked, 'Have you ever asked Jesus into your heart?' We sat down on a little park bench there and I asked the Lord into my heart. It's sort of been a steady walk since."

Rush played football for the University of Saskatchewan and was recruited as a bobsledder. On his first bobsled run, he started halfway down the track and remembers -- pardon the pun -- the rush he felt going at such high speeds. His first time down the entire track, he crashed.

But that didn't diminish Rush's enthusiasm for the sport. Nor was it the last time Rush would wipe out. In fact, in the second heat of the two-man competition Feb. 20, after finishing third in the first heat, Rush crashed. Though he still crossed the finish line, his diminished time removed him from contention in that event. Now he's focusing on the four-man races beginning Feb. 26.

His love for bobsledding grew as Rush progressed as an athlete in the sport. His breakthrough performance came in November, when he won the World Cup season opener in Park City, Utah. But despite his success, the sport also has brought its share of challenges -- most significantly, the time away from home, his wife and his two young daughters.

"I really like bobsledding," Rush said. "I enjoy it a lot, but I hate how much we're gone. That's the worst part. Because my first responsibility is to be a husband and a father."

He credits his church in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, with supporting his family while he's away, and having his parents live nearby helps as well. He also is thankful for technological developments such as Skype that allow him to visit with his family when he's gone. But it's still not the same as being there.

"I can't deny that it's hard," Rush said. "I doubt that I'll probably be doing this next year, and that's the main reason."

For now, though, bobsled is where Rush is, and his involvement with the sport has opened many doors for him to talk about Christ, especially to reporters from Canadian publications.

"They think I'm kind of interesting," he said. "In Canada, we don't really have a Christian culture like you guys. In the States it's sort of cliché, I think. In Canada, they're so far away from a Christian culture that I think a lot of people find it interesting, and they ask me about it all the time."

He's always happy to talk about his Lord and the ways in which he sees God working among his bobsledding teammates.

"One of my guys at the beginning of the year told me that he's an atheist," Rush said. "By the end of the year, he's not an atheist anymore. He's not a believer yet, but he's coming around. I think it's more important than winning medals, to be honest with you."


Tim Ellsworth, in addition to his work for BPSports, is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. For additional BP stories from the Winter Olympics, go to http://www.bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=166. For Tim Ellsworth's Olympics blog, go to http://www.bpnews.net/blog/.