Challenge SPORT

Victory after dark times

Uni Games 800m champion Angie Petty shares her new motivation and plans for Rio Olympics

Angie Petty
HOPE RESTORED: Angie Petty quit Saturday night partying and dedicated her life to a higher purpose.

Breaking the two minute barrier to win the World University Games 800m sprint has Kiwi athlete Angie Petty justifiably excited about her Rio Olympics prospects.

"I am over the moon to have won my first world level title," Angie Petty says, "and in a new personal best time of 1:59.06!"

"I have been dreaming of breaking two minutes for a while, a big thing for 800m runners, and I have dedicated this race to my grandmother Nanny who died in June, as well as to God – I run for Him in every race."

Just before her grandmother's passing, Angie recalls that her final advice was: "Do not fear, keep on trying and look to God."

“I was looking for happiness in the wrong places”"It is such special advice – she said it with such grace and enthusiasm, despite being so sick with cancer at the time," Angie says.

"It was really hard losing her, but she was so positive and wasn't worried right to the end. She knew she was in Jesus' hands. I know she will be so happy in heaven. She would have been so proud of me for this race!"

Following the Uni Games Angie broke a 36-year Kiwi 1000m record at a Tokyo meet.

She then fell a second short of qualifying for the 800m final at the Beijing World Championships in August. The semi-final result was an improvement over her 2013 quarter-final time in Moscow.

Angie's career has been on a steady rise since she rededicated her life to God following a depressive period in 2011.

"I grew up in a Christian family and had a strong faith as a child, but walked away from God a bit when I went flatting in 2011," Angie admits.

"I got quite into partying and drinking and did things I regretted. I also had minor depression and was quite unhappy."

After a while she drew on her childhood knowledge of God and says she realised "there is much more to life than this".

"When I was younger I had said sorry to Jesus for the sins I had committed and asked Him to come live in me.

"I knew God is a God of love and He would help me out, but I took a while to fully come back to Him, because I was looking for happiness in the wrong places and was a bit stuck."

She remembers a friend named Laura gave her an encouraging Christian music album, as well as some great advice.

"My family and friends helped me heaps. I started to read the Bible again, to be more passionate about church and stopped living a double life of partying on Saturday and going to church the next day."

Gradually, as she thought about the future, talked to God, read the Bible and listened to sermons at church, Angie says "I realised God's love for me despite my past."

One of Angie's favourite Bible passages is from Psalm 103 and verse 12 which says: "As far as the east is from the west, so far He has removed our transgressions (wrong-doing) from us."

Angie Petty leads
BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 26, 2015: Angie Petty of New Zealand leads in the Women's 800 metres heats at the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships. (Photo Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)

"I slowly came back to God," Angie continues. "Meeting my husband Sam really helped me come closer to God than before.

"Sam is a triathlete and former middle distance runner. He became a Christian soon after our first meeting in October 2012, and he was so passionate about God. I know that God brought Sam and I together!

"We were baptised in the sea on Easter Monday 2014 and it was very special to publicly declare as an engaged couple that we live for God!

"I am so grateful to God that He brought me through that time and made me new and has given me His joy."

This joy led to a resolution to not drink alcohol for a year from October 2012, a commitment that continues today.

"In that year so much changed that I knew I did not need to drink to have fun," Angie shares. "Life is so much better without drinking alcohol!"

As her life turned around, so did her career.

She narrowly missed qualifying for the London Olympics in 2012, but has since progressed to the quarter-finals at the 2013 World Championships and fifth place at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

In 2015, she has already achieved five Olympic A-level qualifying times for the 800m sprint.

“I can help others in dark times because I know what it is like”"I am really happy with the way I have progressed. I was disappointed to miss out on London when I ran 2:00.67, but I think God allowed it to happen, as I was not ready when my previous PB was only 2.03."

Angie and Sam are now dreaming of competing at the Rio Olympics together, and she believes "anything is possible with God."

She quotes from the Bible "I can do anything through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

"I have gone through tough times – six weeks off training due to glandular fever in January 2013 and small health problems like dizziness – but I know that I can still rejoice in the storms like the apostle Paul.

"Because of Jesus' love and mercy I know He is always there for me. Knowing God's Word, the Bible, has given me wisdom and strength in difficult situations."

As for the dark times and the health issues, Angie firmly believes God allowed them so she could help others.

"I can help others in those challenges because I know what it is like and can be more compassionate. God is so good. I want to spread His Word and love others."

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