Go for the Goal – Nancy Swider-Peltz

Go for the Goal – Nancy Swider-PeltzThe 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.

It can become very confusing when you talk about Nancy Swider-Peltz because there are two of them.  To avoid confusion, we are going to talk about the Olympian, Nancy Swider-Peltz.  Unfortunately, that still does not reduce the confusion, because there are still two of them.  Let’s narrow it down a bit more.  Let’s talk about the Olympic speed skater, Nancy Swider-Peltz. As it happens, that doesn’t help either, because there are still two of them.  The only way we can do this is to talk about mother, Nancy Swider-Peltz Sr., and daughter, Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr.  As Nancy Jr. describes the two of them, they share the “Same name – same sport – same faith.”

 As this story is being written, the younger Nancy is training for the U.S. Olympic trials that begin on December 27th, under the tutelage of her coach, and four-time Olympian, Nancy Sr.  One of the struggles that Nancy Jr. faces is the innate self-centeredness that it takes for athletes to focus on being prepared.  She believes that her faith is made stronger by seeking to glorify God in all things, not just in winning or on the podium, but in her training as well.  Her preparation is steeped in focusing on bringing glory to Christ and not unto herself.

Nancy Jr. has said that, “I have to thank my mom, my dad, and the rest of my family for their godly examples and for teaching me from their experiences how to mature in my faith in Jesus Christ. Along with Christ, they have been there for me through every trial and victory and have taught me so many life lessons I use every day. I have been blessed beyond comprehension. From parents who have raised me on strong Bible-believing values from birth, to providing me with opportunities for me to achieve my goals in life, God has been there for me every step of the way and has never failed me. I give all the glory to God!”

People often ask if mother and daughter have ever actually competed against each other.  Yes, in fact, they have.  Not only did they compete in the 2002 Olympic trials (Nancy Sr. at age 45 and Nancy Jr. at age 14), but they raced against each other, an historic event even if they had not been related, because they became the oldest and youngest competitors ever to compete against each other in the trials.

Nancy Sr.’s hopes to have another Swider-Peltz become an Olympic speed skater and a pillar of faith.  The odds are in her favor, because, in yet another twist to this story, there is also another Swider-Peltz hoping to make the U.S. team.  Thankfully, his name is not Nancy.  It is Jeffrey.  After competing in the 2006 Olympic trials while still in high school, he left competitive skating while attending Wheaton College.  Eventually, he was drawn back by his love of the sport.  His faith in Christ is just as evident as his sister’s.  Jeffrey believes that “Skating is great, but it’s not everything, and it can’t be where I find value within myself. It’s hard to spend so much time focusing on becoming the best skater you can possibly be and keeping a proper perspective on life – it’s such an obsessive culture. I only know that I must seek approval solely from God and not rely on being justified by any personal achievements or the opinions of others.”

The Swider-Peltz family understands that the glitter of Olympic gold can never compare to the crowns they will receive in Heaven and lay at Jesus’ feet.  May they be an example and an encouragement to us all.