Olympic swimmer lives her faith

Friday August 12, 2016 Written by Published in Church Talk
US Olympian Madeline (Maya) DiRado. 16081111 US Olympian Madeline (Maya) DiRado. 16081111

FIRST-TIME US Olympian Madeline (Maya) DiRado has already earned a bunch of medals as part of the US swimming team at the Rio Olympics. She says it’s the “quiet confidence” of her Christian faith that allows her to be a grateful, joyful, and goal-oriented athlete, even at the highest levels of competition.


A native of Santa Rosa, California, the 23-year-old has been swimming on the world stage for five years. After she narrowly missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, DiRado took this year’s trials by storm, winningthree individual events.

Her early performances in Rio earned her a spot on a relay as well; that 4 x 200-metre freestyle relay team went on to win gold. DiRado also placed second in the 400-metre individual medley and third in the 200-metre individual medley. 

DiRado, her fellow-swimmer husband, and her parents attend The River Church Community, an Evangelical Covenant Church–affiliated congregation in the San Francisco Bay Area. A few days before leaving for Rio, she spoke with Christianity Today about her lifelong faith, its impact on her athletic career, and her decision to retire from swimming after the Olympics, no matter what happens.

How did you come to know Christ?

I was raised by two strong Christians in my parents, Marit and Ruben. I always attended church growing up but started questioning my beliefs as a teenager. They were supportive of this and, through some investigating and lots of reading and talking with mentors, I came to know and follow Christ and make my faith my own. 

How has your faith shaped you and your swimming career?

Knowing that I’m a child of God and that his love for me is determined by nothing I can achieve or do on my own has given me a quiet confidence. I think that my faith has helped me chart my own course and pursue my goals when people around me may be going in different directions. 

What role has your family played in your athletic career?

They’ve just been very supportive and helped me find motivation when I may have been lacking. Their biggest role was reminding me that success is whether I prepared and executed as well as I possibly could. It’s never been about winning or beating other people.

What motivates you as you train and compete?

I’m motivated by seeing how good I can be. That applies not just at race time but during every practice: Am I preparing as well as I possibly can, even when we’re nine months out from the big meet? I set high goals for myself and then enjoy the process of working toward them.

What helps keep you grounded as you manage the pressure to perform in Rio?

Well, the worst part is over! There’s a huge weight lifted once you’ve made the Olympic team. Now I’m just enjoying all the little parts of being on the team—laughing with my teammates and coaches, joking around at meals, seeing thousands of people show up to watch us practice. 

You have decided to retire from swimming right after the Olympics. Why did you make this decision?

It may be hard for some people to understand, but I’d rather go out on a high with this amazing experience than to continue until I hate it or I’m no longer competing at a high level. – Christianity Today

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