Barb Lindquist Draws Strength From Her Faith

There is no favorite to win the first Olympic gold medal in women's triathlon. The style of racing is too wide-open, several women have been trading victories in recent World Cup races, and, of course, there is only one gold medal to be had at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.

But it's fair to say that America's Barb Lindquist has as good a shot at getting it as anyone.

Indeed, it's especially fair to say that considering she beat all the top Olympic contenders at the Olympic distance in the Olympic host country in a Formula One Series event in February.

If she does pull it off, Lindquist, 30, will have her swimming to thank for it. She is the fastest swimmer in the sport and seldom emerges from the water without the lead in any race. Her pre-triathlon swimming credentials include membership on the NCAA Champion Stanford University swim team, four Pan-Am Games medals, and three top-eight placings at the 1988 Olympic Trials.

Lindquist herself, however, will not thank her swimming if she wins gold. Instead, she will thank God and this she will do whether she wins gold or crashes her bike and DNFs at the Olympics, or fails to make the team altogether.

Christian faith has been the most important aspect of Lindquist's life since she experienced an epiphany at age 24 as she searched for personal meaning after graduating Stanford in1991, giving up swimming, and moving back to her native home in Wyoming.

"I had made my identity as a swimmer and as a student, and when I moved to Jackson and became a waitress, I went into this identity crisis," she explains.

"I tried to fill that by being a good skier and running trails, but it was so tiring. I felt that I had to just keep working and working to feel good about myself," she said. "I was going to church here and at the time my church was doing a Bible study about identity. I realized that God loves me no matter what I do, whether I read a book all day or went out and ran nine miles. I don't have to earn his love. That was a huge realization that I badly needed then, because I was really at a low point. That was the biggest turning point of my life."

The future ITU American points leader saw her life transform rapidly in the wake of her religious awakening. She became the positive person she's known as today, undid her depression-induced weight gain, took up triathlon as a casual hobby, and on a group ride met her husband Loren, whom she married in 1996.

Although Lindquist pursued triathlon for the sheer joy of it, she was basically too good not to turn pro, and after doing so in '96 she quickly scaled the ranks to become America's top Olympic-distance triathlete.

Coffee at Miracles with Barb Lindquist

Recently, I talked with Lindquist about God, country and triathlon, as she sipped hot chocolate.

Triathlete: What is the importance of your religious faith in the context of your career as a triathlete?

Lindquist: My number one priority is my relationship with God. My number two priority is my relationship with my husband. And my number three priority is triathlon. If ever triathlon gets in front of number one and number two, I know I won't be as good a triathlete.

I feel that triathlon is my mission field. God has given me certain talents and it is my joy to use those talents to glorify Him. I couldn't care less if Barb Lindquist becomes famous or rich from this sport. I just want to reach people, so that they can learn about Christ through me, through my actions or my words.

How does your faith help you as a competitive athlete?

In the actual race, I can really draw on God's strength. When I'm out there on the bike or the run, I'm singing songs from church whose words relate to strength and power. There's one song in particular that goes, "Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit, oh Lord." That's the song I like to sing especially when I'm running.

The second thing is, many people say there's a lot of luck involved in triathlon, especially in ITU races, and I don't really believe in luck. God has this ultimate plan for all of us, and that includes what happens in the race.

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