of faith,” U.S. Olympic diver Laura Wilkinson
says. “It’s really trusting God, even during
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Laura Wilkinson may have to fight back tears
when she steps onto the diving platform for the final time during the
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Wilkinson said.
“It’s my third Olympics, but it’s also going to be my last Olympics.
It’s kind of a farewell at the same time. I get really excited but
really emotional about it a lot.”
Wilkinson, who won a gold
medal in Sydney in 2000 and finished fifth in Athens in 2004, will
begin her competition in the women’s 10-meter platform event on
It won’t be the first time that Wilkinson has gotten
emotional on the platform. Ten years ago, during the 1998 Goodwill
Games, she had an experience during her competition that changed her
life. But first, some stage-setting is necessary.
became a Christian when she was 8 and “really got into church and God’s
Word and was really excited about it,” she said.
until her freshman year of high school. That’s when she began noticing
some people from her church youth group acting one way at church and a
different way outside of church. Such hypocrisy made her uncomfortable,
and Wilkinson slowly stopped going to church altogether. She became
just like those people, she admits.
In her sophomore year in
college, she hit the bottom. Her grades started falling. She was mired
in sinful attitudes and behaviors. She was miserable, but her diving
was going well.
“Diving was the only stable thing I had in my
life,” Wilkinson said. “As long as I have diving,” she thought. “I’m
going to be fine.”
But then her grip on the sport began to
weaken. During her dives, she started to get disoriented in the air.
Rather than fulfilling her, diving began to frighten her.
That’s where the 1998 Goodwill Games come in.
didn’t think I was going to survive the meet,” Wilkinson said. “I was
so disoriented, and I was terrified. I realized in the middle of that
meet that I’d taken control of things and everything was slipping
through my fingers. I had just made a mess of stuff.”
Wilkinson knew that she needed to recommit her life to the Lord.
“He’s got plans for me,” she thought. “He knows better than me.”
while standing on the platform before one of her dives, Wilkinson
surrendered her life once again to God. Strangely enough, she ended up
winning that meet.
“I realized it really wasn’t me,” she said.
“It was all God. It wasn’t God saying, ‘I’m going to have you win every
meet.’ It was God saying, ‘Look what happens when you put your life in
my hands. I have a plan for you. I have a future for you.'”
Her life hasn’t been the same since. Now she knows why she’s diving, and her life has purpose.
focusing on God,” Wilkinson said. “He gave me this talent, and I want
to worship Him with it and glorify Him with it. I know I don’t have to
win to do that. Whatever place I come in, He’s going to be glorified
through that if I honor Him. I want to be a graceful winner and I want
to be a graceful loser.”
Wilkinson and her husband Eriek
Hulseman live in The Woodlands, Texas, and are active members of
Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston. David Upchurch, minister to
young married adults at the church, said Wilkinson is practically a
“People know who she is,” Upchurch said. “I
would say she’s larger than life, but that’s not the first thing that
comes across when you meet her. She’s a real person, very humble about
all of that stuff.”
Whatever the outcome of the Beijing
Olympics, Wilkinson, 30, knows that her days as a competitive diver are
nearing an end. After the Olympics she intends to be more involved in
the Laura Wilkinson Foundation, raising money to build a new facility
for her diving team. She and her husband also want to have children.
even though diving may not play such a prominent role in her life in
the future, Wilkinson is thankful for the way in which the sport has
taught her about God.
“Jumping off the platform is a lot like
taking a step of faith,” she said. “It’s really trusting God, even
during something scary. Diving itself has been a great learning tool
for me to help me understand God’s Word.”