The Heart of an Olympian
Michelle appeared to have it all – a successful soccer career, awards, honors, friends, travel, money, husband… When her life began to fall apart, Michelle found a hidden strength. Find out how this Olympic Gold Medalist rose above her trials.
Michelle graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1989. She has been a member of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team since 1985. On over 100 occasions, she has represented the team as their Starting Center Forward. Her team won Olympic Gold in Atlanta. In 1996 she was named the US Cup Tournament MVP. Michelle is the all-time leading goal scorer for men/women’s US National Team Programs. Some of Michelle’s numerous honors include US Olympic Committee Athlete of the Year, 1991, Soccer Federation Female Player of the Year, 1990, 1991, US Olympic Committee Female Soccer Player of the Year, 1990 and ESPN Athlete of the Year, 1985. Michelle is very involved off the field in various committees which include the US Soccer Federation National Board of Directors and the Women’s Sports Foundation Advisory Board. She is also a strong advocate for the Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Disorder Association of America.
My dream as a little girl was to be a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I practiced Hail Mary catches daily with my dad and brother in the backyard and at school during recess with the guys. Then one day, my first grade teacher pulled me aside and told me “Girls don’t play football.” I was crushed.
Fortunately, with the encouragement and support of my parents, I continued in sports and found myself on the inaugural U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team in 1985. We soon developed into a major international soccer power and became the first FIFA Women’s World Champions in 1991. I scored 10 goals in six games and was named the Golden Boot Winner (highest scorer) in the tournament. I was also recognized as the “best player in the world” by soccer aficionados around the globe. I was on top of the world … or so I thought.
In late 1993, I collapsed during a match at the Olympic Sports Festival in San Antonio and soon after was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Virus (Cronic Fatigue Syndrome). After a year of trying to battle the virus and still maintain my career and marriage, I hit rock bottom emotionally, physically and spiritually.
I had become a Christian in high school but had thrown any obedience or relationship out the window when my life turned around and things began rolling my way – full college scholarship, success in my career, friends, travel, money, husband…
For 10 years I followed my instincts, my rules and my desires, and now, I was depressed, sick, alone and empty. After realizing the pathetic state of my life, my husband and I filed for divorce in September of 1994 and I left for the mountains in hopes of remembering and rediscovering who I was and what was important to me. It was there that I gave my life back to Jesus.
My decision to hand over my life to the Lord brought incredible peace, strength and joy. I know my life is in the hands of someone who loves me and truly knows what is best for me. God provides me with the strength and courage I need to live for Him. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
I also know there will continue to be tough times for me. For example, after my divorce and continued battle with Epstein-Barr, my team was competing in the 1995 Women’s World Cup, and five minutes into the first game, I was knocked unconscious, suffered a knee injury, and found myself out of the tournament. On top of that, we lost the World Cup (placing third). I was heartbroken. But, I also knew Christ was in control of the situation, and although it was painful at the time, He was with me, He loved me, and it was part of the plan for my life. Although I had experienced a major setback, I was able to remain positive throughout the tournament, support my teammates in our quest to win, and actually use the ordeal to strengthen my faith.
I try to live with Jesus Chris as the centre of my life. He is my Lord and Savior. I am secure in my place in heaven despite my shortcomings and failings as a person. Are you? I know if I am obedient and love Him with all my heart, mind and soul, God will bless me and take care of me. Let Him do the same for you. Give your life to Jesus Christ today.
What about you? Where are you in your spiritual journey? Do you feel as though you have hit rock bottom emotionally, physically or spiritually? Do you desire to find strength and discover who you are and what matters in your life? You can! Simply express your desire to God through prayer. God knows your heart so it doesn’t matter which words you use, but here’s a suggested prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.
Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.
If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.