Faith and sport intertwined

Kiwi Olympian Lucy Van Dalen feels like she’s in a partnership

Lucy and Kaila
AUGUST 08, 2012 - Kaila McKnight of Australia and Lucy Van Dalen of New Zealand after failing to qualify in their 1500m Olympic Semifinal

Many New Zealanders didn’t know who Lucy Van Dalen was when she was selected at the last minute to run in the Olympics.

Her qualification for the 1500 semi-final caught many of the New Zealand public by surprise but Lucy and her twin sister Holly have been on Athletic Scholarships at Stony Brook university in New York in the United States.

Lucy came 11th in her semi, on August 9, in a time of 4 minutes, 6.97 seconds. Her time was just over a second slower than her personal best of 4:05.76 set in San Diego in June.

“Just getting to the semis was a goal of mine and I accomplished that so I feel so pleased with the whole experience. It’s amazing and it was great to come back out today,” Lucy told Sky TV after the race.

For the Wanganui-raised Van Dalen the Olympic berth was not just a personal achievement; it also represented validation for the athlete that God truly was using her for his purposes.

A born-again Christian since the age of 16 after growing up in a home with Christian parents, she says her running never became a passion until she saw the wider purpose God had in mind.

“I feel like this is a partnership with God. He is using me and favouring me because I trust in Him. It doesn’t have to be just in running, but I feel like that draws me closer to him,” she says. “My running is a gift from God, and I want to use it for Him.”

Moving to the US for an athletic scholarship was a leap of faith for her and her sister, but Lucy says that her faith helped sustain her in the transition.

“I had to evaluate what was important, and my faith was what got me through that. Those trying times in life are when you draw closer to God and depend on him more,” she says, recalling her earlier journey to faith.

“At age 16, I gave my heart to the Lord, and that’s when I really knew it was more than just praying to God but was about having a relationship with him. From that moment, I’ve drawn on strength from God for every part of my life.”

Lucy Van Dalen
Lucy Van Dalen

Running has provided opportunities for spiritual growth as well, such as the chance to share how God is working in my life, while on a run with friends or teammates or showing God’s love to others and being a good example.

Lucy finds inspiration before races by listening to worship music. “That’s where I draw my strength, so I hone in on that before a race. I wouldn’t be a runner without God, so I feel like my faith and my sport are intertwined,” she says.

Van Dalen plans to continue her running at the professional level after London, setting her sights already on 2016; the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships, where she hopes to meet up with Holly, who wants to get back to the 5000-metre race after healing from an injury.

When her running career is over, Lucy plans to use her bachelor’s degree in sociology and child/family studies, and master’s in liberal studies, in the area of social work, possibly in the area of child trafficking.

Teresa Young, AIA Communications (OTHER SOURCES: TVNZ, NZ Herald)

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