Go for the Goal – Ken DeLong

Go for the Goal – Ken DeLongThe 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.

Ken DeLong’s story may be the most unusual in our series, but it may also be the most representative of Going for the Goal.  Ken grew up in Roanoke, Virginia with aspirations of being an Olympic athlete.  He never made it to the Olympics.  But he is about to.

After high school, Ken went to Milligan College, a highly-rated Christian liberal arts school in Tennessee where he earned his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education.  He obtained his graduate degree while working as a strength and conditioning coach at Texas A&M.  Subsequently, he ended up accepting a strength and conditioning internship at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY.  While there, he became the fourth man for one of the U.S. bobsled teams.  He recalls that “It was a fantastic experience – a little scary, but really exciting.”  Unfortunately for the 26-year old Ken, his team placed seventh in the Olympic trials and that appeared to be the end of the story.

But this is a story about how God blesses faithfulness, so the story does not end.

Ken decided to make his home in upstate New York, and he has lived there for 30 years.  For the first five years he held the job of Recreation Specialist at the Raybrook Federal Penitentiary near Lake Placid.  Over the past 25 years, he has worked with Northeast Parent and Child, a residential facility for troubled teenagers.  One of the things that Ken brought to NPC was the idea of bobsledding as a way of teaching the teens how to make a commitment to something greater than themselves.  For 30 long years, Ken worked with criminals and at-risk teenagers, helping them to see a better way.  No fame.  No fortune.  No Olympics.  But during this span he also took and passed the exams for officiating at skeleton and bobsled races in 2002 and 2003, respectively.  He has been officiating ever since.

On February 5th, 2014, Ken DeLong will board a flight to Russia, where, at long last, he will participate in the Olympic Games at Sochi as an official at the skeleton races.  He received his invitation from the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing.  All of his expenses are paid by the Russian Olympic Committee.  While in Sochi he will be part of the team responsible for maintaining the safety of the track as well as ensuring athletes’ credentials and that the races are run according to the rules.

The chairman of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation put the fulfillment of Ken DeLong’s childhood Olympic dreams into perspective, describing the assignment as being the same as being a referee at the Super Bowl.  He called Ken “One of the most widely-respected jury officials in the United States.”

On February 7th, 2014, when the Sochi Olympic Games open, Ken DeLong will have reached his goal.