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06 July 2012

Sport for an audience of one

Sport for an audience of one

Debbie Flood is representing Team GB in rowing. She holds two silver medals in the quadruple sculls at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. But more important to her than rowing is fulfilling God's plan for her life. We caught up with her as she prepares for London 2012…

idea: What does having the Olympics in the UK mean to you?  

Being chosen to represent my country at the Olympics is a great honour, but representing GB at home will be the greatest honour of my career. We spend so much of our lives competing and training abroad that to compete in front of a home crowd and my friends and family who can't always travel the world will be amazing. The crowd will be behind us which will really lift us too!

What one thing can't you live without when you're competing?

I love my music - it sends me to another place of focus and distraction and helps me to prepare and put my mind in the right racing state. So my i-shuffle comes everywhere with me.

How do you deal with failure?

Just because I am a Christian doesn't mean that everything is smooth and rosy. It's not always easy being a Christian in any environment! But in the sports world there are lots of challenges – sport can bring out both the best and the worst in people – in how you cope with winning, loosing, how you treat others even if they treat you badly. A world where often it's a 'me first' attitude. But as a Christian, Jesus comes first. Jesus teaches us to live with humility, integrity, love honesty, and fairness. What I want for me is not always what God wants for me. I trust that God has my life in His hands and being a Christian I feel that my perspective is bigger than just winning and losing. I am highly competitive and I do want to win but if I do not then although I am disappointed, that is just sport. If someone is better then they win. I am only temporarily defined by rowing. Ultimately my identity is in Jesus, not my performances. I believe that Jesus wants me to be involved in the world of sport – that is the talent and gift that he has given me. 

If you couldn't be an athlete, what career path would you have chosen?

I always wanted to be a veterinary surgeon. But rowing took over and now God is leading me in a different direction. I am a prison officer and will probably spend my working career along the lines of working with youth offenders, families and social work.

How do you deal with the pressure of being an Olympic hopeful?

I take it in my stride with a deep belief in my abilities! I have worked hard for the last 15 years of my rowing life and know that I am capable of being up among the Olympic greats. God has given me the talents I have and I have worked hard to make them the best they can be. I race with a lot of confidence because that's how I like to work! But at Olympic level, everyone has worked hard, everyone is fit and strong and it will just come down to the race on the day. I have a massive amount of respect for every athlete that has made the Olympics to represent their country - it shows a lot of hard work and dedication. But I also love racing - it is the fun bit! So although I'll be very nervous it's what we train for and why we push ourselves and makes the hard training worthwhile. But it is important that I don't think sport is the be all and end all, or that it's all about me. I am first and foremost a Christian so I am in the sports world as a representative of Christ – really as part of Jesus team! So rather than getting carried away with the media and millions of people watching it's easy to just want to please others however that may be, but I do sport for an audience of one and that's Jesus. Jesus is part of my motivation, to want to do well for him and use my abilities fully and not waste my life or what he has given me. I am part of God's team and I want to play for him in all areas of my life!

How do you relax?

I love to cook and spend time with friends at home, walk my dog, watch a film or just chat away in a coffee shop for a few hours. On training camp we watch DVDs and try to rest as much as we can between training sessions.

What frustrates you?

Being injured or ill is something that frustrates any athlete. And the more tired we get the easier it is to get frustrated when things are not going quite to plan. But we are a great team and try to help each other through frustrations and put things into perspective bringing back a positive forward direction.

Who inspires you? My dad is my hero. He has worked hard all his life in every area: work, sport and family. He always taught me to work hard at whatever I do but I also know that my mum and dad are proud of me no matter what.

When you look back on your life, what do you hope you will have achieved? I hope that I will have grasped every opportunity sent my way with both hands, made the most of my life and not wasted it. If you can do that then you can have no regrets. I pray that I will have helped many people along the way and been a blessing. I have made so many life-long friendships and that is so important to me, I feel like I have a massive loving family of friends.

What do you think the opportunity for the Church is with the Olympics right on our doorstep?

It is a fantastic way to engage the community and bring people together both Christian and non-Christian. It is a great opportunity for outreach so grab it with both hands - use the opportunity to strengthen friendships within your community and also use the profiles of Christian athletes such as myself if it is helpful! Perhaps draw on the similarities between faith and sport such as the idea of 'running the race'. In some ways, being an Olympic athlete is similar to being a Christian. You live with a hope for the future, the light when the day comes. You put your faith and belief in something that you cannot yet touch or see until that final day. That whatever happens in the ups and downs along the way although your belief at times may be strong or weak you must keep faith that what you are doing in your life every day is for a reason. Medals and things that we attain in this world cannot be taken with us to heaven. Ultimately life in Jesus is the biggest prize.

For ideas, tips and practical information on the Olympics, visit our Olympics resources page.

For more articles and stories on the Olympics please go to our special Olympics webpage

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