Go for the Goal – Jilleanne Rookard

Go for the Goal – Jilleanne RookardThe 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 continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we forget that world-class athletes are human. We watch them on TV and wonder why they don’t always perform up to our personal expectations. We forget that they, too, have injuries, sickness, sorrow, and other burdens to bear – ones that we do not see on television. Jilleanne Rookard is a perfect example.

After winning the World Cup 3000 meter speed skating event in 2009, she went on to participate in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. She failed to medal, placing 12th in the 3000m, 24th in the 1500m and 4th in Ladies Team Pursuit. Disappointing? Sure. But not nearly as disappointing as losing her mother to cancer in December 2009. That devastating loss was like having an elephant strapped on her back every time she strapped on her skates.

Jilleanne walked away from the sport, a broken woman, just before the 2013 world championships eleven months ago. She had been so highly focused on her skating success that she had been unable during the intervening years to adequately deal with her mother’s death. She described herself as a mental mess. She cried when she practiced, as she continued to fall apart emotionally. Her performance declined. So she took some time off to “decompress.”

Having accepted Christ in 2006, she looked to Him for the strength to make it through. She says, “It was strange, because God didn’t solve my problems, but it seemed as though He was giving me the strength to handle more. I thank God every day for the lessons He has taught me along this journey. I’ve learned that success is not defined by the outcome, but by the courage it takes to chase God-sized dreams.”

Oh, just in case you were wondering, Jilleanne has returned to the sport and she has already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team with a winning time in the 3000m of just 0.4 seconds under the five minute mark. Jilleanne Rookard left her heavy burden at the cross and is pressing on to the glory of God. When you watch her race in Sochi, think about this story and pray for her.