By Darryl Budge
800m star Angie Petty
Four months out from the Rio Olympics Kiwi runner Angie Petty is thankful and humble about her recent streak of victories in Australia and New Zealand.
"After four 800 and two 1500 metre wins this season, everything is going in the right direction thankfully," a relieved Angie told Challenge in March.
After taking the 800m and 1500m at the New Zealand nationals in March, and wins at the Adelaide, Potts and Porritt Classic events, Angie will race in Sydney, Tokyo and Europe to prepare for Rio.
The 800m specialist is grateful not just for stronger times but that her triathlete husband Sam is recovering from a heavy mountain bike accident in January, even though it ended his hopes of qualifying for Rio.
Due to concussion, cuts and internal bruising, "he won't be fit enough to race for qualification in time," Angie commented in March.
In Rio, cheered on by Sam and her immediate family, Angie believes reaching the 800m final is "a tough but realistic aim" up against the fastest and toughest women in the world.
Her inner preparation involves turning race nerves into excitement and committing herself to her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
"I know that God is there every step of the way, so I commit every race to Him," Angie explains.
"I pray during every warm up and remember Bible verses like 2 Timothy 1, verse 7: 'For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind'."
She believes her speed and her love for running was not gained by her efforts alone.
"Running is the gift God has given me," she explains, "so I will keep running as long as He wants me to. It is only because of Him that I can run."
Angie reflects on a time in 2010 when she ignored God and her life turned for the worse.
"I got quite into partying and drinking and did things I regretted. I also had minor depression and was quite unhappy," she recalls.
After a while she drew on her childhood knowledge of God and says she realised "there is much more to life than this". She also trusted in "God's love for me despite my past."
"When I was younger I had said sorry to Jesus for the sins I had committed and asked Him to come live in me."
In her hopeless state, she slowly turned back to God.
She began to personally seek Jesus "by reading the Bible again, being more passionate about church and stopped living a double life of partying on Saturday and going to church the next day."
Soon after meeting her future husband in October 2012, he became a passionate follower of Jesus. "God blessed me by bringing Sam and I together," she remembers.
Based on these experiences Angie says confidently, "God answers prayers."
"He has given me peace and hope that no matter what happens He will always be with me and love me."
Fluctuating race results may overwhelm some athletes, but for Angie these are an opportunity to seek God's opinion of her worth.
"Athletes can feel judged by a time," Angie explains. "Whereas I know God loves me unconditionally.
"In the pressure of being an international athlete, God helps me overcome disappointment and hard times. I focus on the good plans He has for those who trust in Him," she says, referring to Romans 8, verse 28.
To those who view Christian belief as old fashioned and a list of rules, Angie explains that God's love is beyond our human imagination.
"God is an incredible loving Father whose love is not like what you may have preconceived," Angie states. "There is so much to show that He is real."
The Christian faith is not blind, asserts Angie, instead it is logically founded upon evidences.
Among them, she says is God's Word in the Bible, Jesus' resurrection, the testimonies of how He has changed people's lives, the miracles and prayers He has answered, and our daily experience of God's beautifully designed universe sadly spoiled by the curse of sin.
"There has to be a God," Angie says.
"I am sure you will be amazed if you ask Jesus to forgive your sins and follow Him from now on. Your life will be changed for good!"
If you know Jesus, she concludes, you "live with a real purpose and God is with you forever".•