Go for the Goal – Janet Lynn

Go for the Goal – Janet LynnThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we begin a series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose Goal is to honor Jesus Christ.  We begin with American figure skater, Janet Lynn.

Janet Lynn is now 60 years old.  She never won Olympic gold, but she caused the sport to change dramatically simply by her outstanding freestyle performance ability.  If she were to skate under today’s rules – the very rules that were changed because of her – she would likely have an entire collection of gold medals.  When Janet competed in the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, she was 19 years old and America’s hope for gold.  Why she did not win the gold depends upon whether you see the cup as half-full or half-empty.  It was either the fact that she was weak in the compulsory part of the program or that her strength, freestyle, which she clearly won, was not allotted a large enough portion of the total score at that time.  The question might be raised, “How much is a large enough portion?”  The simple answer is that, as of the early 1990’s, there is no longer a compulsory portion of the competition.  It was Janet’s exquisite freestyle performance, despite a disastrous fall on the ice, that was instrumental in changing the perspective of figure skating officials’ opinions of how to best score the events.

Janet Lynn is a five-time U.S. National Figure Skating Champion, a two-time World Figure Skating medalist, and the 1972 Winter Olympic bronze medal winner.  She was one of the first women to land a triple jump in competition.  She turned professional in 1973, becoming the highest paid female athlete at that time, and, one year later, became the World Professional Champion.  Many experts believe that she is one of the greatest freestyle figure skaters of all time.  Her shining example for figure skating, however, pales in the light of how she has shined for Christ amidst the darkness of this world.

In a speech given at the dedication of the Janet Lynn Ice Arena in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois, in July 2000, Janet boldly proclaimed that, “Through the joys and difficulties, Jesus Christ has been my stability. He has a plan for my life and it certainly included skating. The faith that my family introduced me to through regular church attendance ultimately enabled me to focus on the good and persevere through the unpleasant things. My faith in Christ, knowing that the loving God can take even broken dreams and make something beautiful in His time, has been the hope of my life. This faith was a foundation of my skating.”

She spoke to the heartbreak she experienced after completing the compulsories in 1972.  She had realized that her entire life, “as well as my personal dreams and ambitions for self, country, and God, were wrapped up in this competition.” She told how she had spent the day weeping and arguing with God in the Olympic Village.  But she also shared that “a thought came into my mind:  If I could not win, then all I could do was to finish the competition and decide to dedicate my free skating to show God’s love to all who watched. A medal no longer mattered. Somehow, God heard my cries and answered a girl’s prayers in ways I could not have imagined.”

After the 1972 Olympics, Janet returned to Japan and responded consistently that it was her faith in Christ and her desire to live for Him that kept here smiling after her infamous fall on the ice.  Fifteen years later, on a subsequent trip to Japan, a woman handed her a note in which she explained that she had been depressed and ready to take her own life, until she had heard Janet speak of her faith and hope in Jesus Christ.  She decided to place her hope in Christ as a result.  Janet may not have won the gold, but that Japanese woman won eternal life.

On a broader scale, Janet says, “It disturbs me greatly to see instances in our nation where people try to exclude God or create fear of talking about God in public. He has blessed this nation so richly; why would anyone want to shut Him out?”

Quotes are from Janet Lynn’s speech, “Family Faith, and Freedom.”