While many people have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, not all have the courage to use their gifts to spread the gospel and to glorify God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Professional athletes have all been given exceptional physical and mental abilities that they have greatly honed in order to enter professional competition. Their great determination and work ethic has put them on a pedestal as role models for our society to follow. Despite knowing that their gifts come from God, many Christian athletes fail to use this platform to reach others. However, there are some athletes who are unashamed to give God the glory for their achievements and who use their platform to spread the gospel and to outreach to those in need.
Christian “Christ” Hosoi was a premier skateboarder in the 1980s. At age 13, Hosoi had already emerged onto the pro circuit and was only several years away from routinely competing against some of the greatest skateboarders in the world. He was even considered to be the legendary Tony Hawk’s main rival in the late 1980s. Hosoi’s wild skating style replicated his lifestyle. His success dragged him down as excessive partying, numerous failed business ventures, and drug abuse eventually got a hold of him.
In 2000, Hosoi’s life hit rock bottom. He was convicted to a 10-year prison sentence for drug trafficking after being caught in Honolulu with one-and-a-half pounds of crystal methamphetamine. Shortly before he went to jail, Hosoi was led to the Lord after reluctantly attending a church service with his wife.
His newfound relationship with Christ sustained him in prison, and he was granted parole for good behavior after four years. Hosoi, whose signature trick was named the “Christ Air”, is now an associate pastor at the Sanctuary Huntington Beach in Huntington Beach, California. Hosoi also started a skate ministry called The Uprising with other famous skaters like Jay Haizlip, Lance Mountain, Brian Summer and Ray Barbee. The Uprising travels the world and uses the skateboarders’ testimonies to share God’s love and mercy. Hosoi also shares his testimony on the “I Am Second” website. I Am Second is a non-profit ministry that features the testimonies of well-known Christians who put God first in their lives.
Born into a family of surfers, Bethany Hamilton won her first surfing competition, the 1998 Rell Sun Menehue in Oahu, Hawaii, at the tender age of eight. Five years later, on October 31, 2003, Hamilton lost her left arm and 60 percent of her blood after being attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing. Miraculously, Hamilton survived the attack and walked the road to recovery with a positive attitude thanks to her faith in Jesus Christ. Hamilton quickly returned to competitive surfing after the attack. In January 2004, she participated in the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s (NSSA) Open Women’s division and finished in fifth place. The 2004 ESPY Award winner won her very first national surfing competition, the 2005 NSSA National Championships, just one year after losing her arm. She became a professional in 2007, and has competed in five major events since. Her career highlight occurred when she placed second in the 2009 Billabong ASP World Junior Championship.
The Hawaii native’s amazing story was publicized in her autobiography, Soul Surfer, released in October 2004. The book then was released a feature film of the same name in April of 2011. She has also written other books such as Devotions for the Soul Surfer and a “Soul Surfer” Bible. Hamilton’s foundation, “Friends of Bethany”, lends support to shark attack victims and amputees, participates in different charities, and inspires others using Hamilton’s life as an example. In March 2011, Hamilton’s testimony was featured by I Am Second. In August of that same year, Hamilton was interviewed by Pastor Ed Young at the Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas in front an audience of 25,000.
PGA golfer Bubba Watson is the epitome of an enthusiastic sportsman. The Bagdad, Florida native started playing golf at age six, and soon became a golf prodigy. Watson after excelled at the game despite having received only one golf lesson in his life from his own father. After going pro in 2001, a year before his college graduation, the former Georgia Bulldog has since had a PGA Tour victory in each of the last three years.
Watson has realized just how burdensome it is to be famous, but has taken it in stride by trying to be the best role model he can be. His first action as a role model was going back to the University of Georgia to finish his degree, partly out of a desire to show how important it is to get an education even if one’s dreams lie outside of academics. As Christians, Bubba and his wife Angie take great pleasure in giving back to the community using their own time and resources. Not only has Watson hosted numerous junior golf events, but has also participated in several charities. “Drive to a Million” is the golfer’s latest charity project, and documents his quest to raise $1 million for charity. The initiative raises money through a host of methods such as selling gear that Watson wore on the course, donation dollars contributed every time Watson launches a 300+ yard drive, or direct donations from Watson himself.
As a little girl, Laura Wilkinson’s dream was to become and Olympic gymnast. However, a growth spurt she endured in adolescence made her too tall to continue gymnastics through high school. Her interest in diving was piqued as a teenager when she saw a diver trying to land a very tough maneuver. Wilkinson did not start diving until she was 15, and was kicked off her high school team nine just months later for being a “waste of space,” as the 2000 Olympic gold medalist describes it. She did not let negativity hold her back, however, and went on to make the 1995 American national diving team. In 1998, after becoming the only American diver to ever win a Goodwill Games gold medal, Wilkinson set her sights on her Olympic dream, temporarily leaving the University of Texas to pursue it.
Even after shattering her right foot during training just six months before the games, Wilkinson was fixated on her goal of becoming an Olympic gold medalist. Despite her injury allowing her only three weeks of pool practice beforehand, that goal came to fruition in a come-from-behind victory at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Combined with her victories at the 2004 World Cup and the 2005 World Championships, Laura Wilkinson became the first woman to win all three major world titles in platform diving.
The Texas native accepted Jesus into her heart and life when she was eight years old. Today, Wikinson spends her time color commentating for televised diving events, speaking as an inspirational and motivational booster for corporate events, and sharing God’s love through speaking at conferences and churches. She uses the high and low points of her career to speak to others about how trusting God got her through her struggles and brought her joy despite her hardships. Wilkinson also founded the Laura Wilkinson Foundation, which is dedicated to helping aspiring young divers achieve the dreams of their own.
In April of 1994, 13 years after losing his right leg from a boating accident, Todd Huston was ready to embark on a mission no amputee had attempted before. He set out to climb to the highest point of elevation in each of the 50 U.S. states faster than anyone else in history. However, just prior to commencing the journey, the organization sponsoring Huston said that the funding had fallen through. Despite being distraught and discouraged, Huston decided to organize funding on his own and continue his quest. Huston dubbed his record-setting goal “Summit America.” The amputee climber started by scaling the tallest mountain in North America, Alaska’s Mt. McKinley, on June 1, 1994. Huston recounts that the 47th climb was the most emotionally trying for him, as two climbers were killed on Oregon’s Mt. Hood just two days before he was slated to scale it. His good friend, mountain climbing expert Fred Zalokar, assured Huston that they would reach the top safely together, and that is exactly what they did. After only 66 days, Huston successfully reached the highest points of elevation in all 50 states, doing so in 35 fewer days than the previous record holder (who happened to have both of his legs!). Huston claims that his faith in God is what gave him the drive to do what had seemed impossible.
The world record holder is now a motivational speaker who uses his experiences to inspire others to succeed. His book, More Than Mountains, is a mountain-by-mountain chronicle of his achievement that shows readers how his faith in God gave him the strength to persevere. Huston’s testimony is also featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul, A Second Helping.
Everyone has dreams they want to accomplish, yet there are almost always large obstacles standing in the way. Christian could have lost everything to drugs. Bethany could have given up surfing after losing an arm. Bubba could have grown weary after failing to win a major championship until his Masters win in 2012. Laura could have let getting kicked off her high school diving team or shattering her foot before the Olympics discourage her. Todd could have let missing a leg, losing his first sponsor or the deaths on Mt. Hood hold him back. But each athlete put drew strength from their relationship with God and pressed on to incredible success. Don’t let circumstances, setbacks or limitations keep you from reaching for your dreams. As we read in Philippians 4:13, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”