August 8, 2008


Plenty of reasons to watch the 2008 Summer Olympics

True or false: You plan to spend time during the next two weeks watching the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China?

Admit it: If you’re like most Americans—and millions of people around the world—you will keep up with the Games to some degree between now and Aug. 24, the day of the closing ceremonies.

And for good reason. Or in this case, if you live in this part of Indiana, let us suggest four good reasons.

In the Aug. 1 and Aug. 8 issues of The Criterion, we have shared the stories of four Olympic athletes—all teenagers—with ties to Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Diocese of Lafayette.

Women’s gymnastics team members Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan, both 16, were featured in our Aug. 1 issue. Samantha is a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, and will be a junior at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis this fall. Teammate Bridget is a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, and will be a sophomore at Tri-West High School in Lizton.

On page 10 this week, we feature a story about Mary Beth Dunnichay, 15, who will compete as part of a duo in women’s 10-meter synchronized platform diving. Mary Beth, who is home-schooled, is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Elwood, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

We also feature a story on page 10 about David Boudia, 19, who will compete in the 10-meter individual platform diving competition, and will also team with Thomas Finchum in 10-meter platform synchronized diving in Beijing. David, who will attend Purdue University in the fall, is a member of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Noblesville, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

Although it is reason enough to root for these athletes because of their Indiana ties, we, too, laud them for the strong Christian values that are evident in each of their lives. It is no doubt a reflection of their families and how they have kept their children grounded despite the challenges that come with nurturing a world-class athlete.

Through hard work and dedication, Samantha, Bridget, Mary Beth and David have excelled to be among the best athletes in their respective sports in our country. But what makes these teenagers unique in our view is that they are not afraid to let their faith shine through as well.

We also feel it is providential that only days before the Olympics began, the Vatican announced the creation of the John Paul II Foundation for Sports. Vatican officials said the year marking the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul’s birth was also an appropriate time to begin the foundation.

Bishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, noted that the letters of St. Paul demonstrate an understanding of the grueling demands of sports.

The foundation was launched by five Italian organizations and businesses involved with promoting sports and good sportsmanship. Its mission is to strengthen parish-based sports programs, to further study about teaching values and good citizenship through sports, and to sponsor international celebrations highlighting good, sweaty fun.

Edio Costantini, president of the foundation, said it was named after Pope John Paul because the late pope spoke so often about sports as a way to bring people together in peace, and as a way to learn teamwork, self-control and respect for rules.

The foundation’s promotional materials highlight six values taught by sports: respect for one’s body, knowing how to lose, knowing how to win, discipline, practice and hard work.

Isn’t that what the Olympics are all about?

The Olympics may be about more than just the competition itself this year. There are some people who will bring politics into the Games because of host China’s consistent human rights violations in recent years, and we hope and pray that constructive dialogue will result and thus lead to a change of heart from the Chinese government.

As for the Games themselves, when all is said and done in Beijing, no matter what the medal count shows, we pray that Samantha, Bridget, Mary Beth, David and all athletes who participated in the Olympics will have lived the words spoken in St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy: “I have competed well; I have finished the race: I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7).

—Mike Krokos

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