An Olympic Edge

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The London games have begun. Does your favorite athlete have a leg up? Are they aware of the latest formula for speed? The newest way to win?

The development of bigger and stronger bodies brought many record-setting Olympic performances in the past. However, some feel the growth spurt is waning.


France’s National Institute of Sport, Expertise, and Performance examined track and field and swimming events from 1891 to 2008 and reported that record-breaking performances have declined sharply since 1988. They concluded, “Our physiological evolution will remain limited in a majority of Olympic events.”

With the decline in physiological evolutionary advancement and more consistent programs of nutrition and training, there has been a leveling of the playing field, so to speak. This has increased demand for the utilization of new ways to improve performances.

NPR recently aired the story Technology Could Give Athletes An Edge At Olympic Park. The piece included a discussion with Philippa Oldham of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Oldham explained how technologies such as spray-on clothing and 3D-printed shoes are assisting Olympians.

Greg Bishop in a New York Times piece Long Before London Games, James Bond Tactics explains that France even created an agency in its sports ministry to boost medal counts through athletic surveillance.

Bishop writes, “France is not the only nation looking for an Olympic edge through stealth. Someone from the United States’ BMX cycling team surreptitiously rode the competition course in London for this summer’s Olympic Games with a three-dimensional mapping device, specifics of which officials declined to reveal, so the Americans could build and train on a replica of the Olympic track.”

Aerodynamic bicycle helmet designs, hydrodynamic swimwear, carbon fiber blades used for prosthetic limbs, and running shoe spikes that grip the track more efficiently, will provide athletes an edge until each team employs them or they are banned from Olympic use.

Does it make you wonder who and what is more important, engineers, gear, or the athletes?

If competition were merely comprised of physical movements, mechanical engineers would hold all the cards when it comes to Olympic medal counts. Yet, there is a mental component to athletics. And many feel that sports psychology outweighs the mechanical manipulations of clothing and gear.

However, besides the physical and emotional elements that give athletes an edge, there is another element to consider.

Michele Joan D. Valbuena, Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, Silliman University, Dumaguete City, writes, “Sport psychology researchers have found that athlete engagement is characterized by four dimensions: confidence, dedication, vigor and enthusiasm.”

Yet, her research with Filipino athletes shows that there is a very helpful fifth dimension. Valbuena found that since Filipino athletes are not furnished with facilities and programs that other countries athletes are accustomed to, nor are they given financial assistance, a “fifth dimension of athletic engagement — spirituality — becomes their pillar.”

The new Olympic edge might be the spiritual power that enables an athlete to cope with the rigors and stress of top-tier competition, and to recover more quickly from injuries.

This new edge probably doesn’t seem so new to many of us. Forty-nine percent of Americans say they already pray about their health. Thirty-six percent say they have witnessed the healing of an injury or illness because of prayer.

Several years ago, Cory, a sophomore pitcher from The University of Texas Longhorn varsity baseball squad was a student in my Christian Science Sunday School class. I had the opportunity to watch Cory pitch several times. One day, during a game, a ball was hit directly at him. Cory caught the line drive with his bare hand.

The next day a coach noticed that his hand was swollen and he couldn’t grip the ball. An x-ray revealed a fracture. Cory was scheduled to pitch again in four days. He wanted to be healed, and knew from experience that a prayerful, spiritual approach could enable him to quickly recover.

Cory had planned to take a seven-hour trip to his girlfriend’s cottage. Despite the injury, Cory followed through with his plans. While he travelled, he prayed, and as he did, he was convinced that changes were taking place. When he arrived, he knew the healing was complete. He went swimming and fishing, and wrestled with his girlfriend’s brothers.

To satisfy his coach, he went back to the doctor who had x-rayed the hand. The doctor said he’d never seen anything like it. The hand was totally healed. When he pitched a few days later, he struck out seven of the eight batters he faced.

Spirituality enables athletes – everyone – to enjoy an edge, because it helps them both mentally and physically.

– Keith Wommack is a Syndicated Columnist, Christian Science practitioner and teacher, husband, and step-dad. He has been described as a spiritual spur (since every horse needs a little nudge now and then). Keith’s columns originate at: