VANCOUVER — Rebekah
Bradford knows about second chances.
She received one at the U.S. speedskating championships in December when she
fell with only 30 feet to go in her last race. Bradford rebounded in her
reskate to post a personal best and qualify for the Winter Olympics.
But an even greater rebound came five years earlier when Bradford, who had been
raised in church before abandoning her Christian roots, decided that what she
had been taught about Christianity was indeed true. She gave her life to the
Lord and has since seen God work in her life through her speedskating.
“It’s not just a sport to me,” Bradford said. “It’s taught me so many life
lessons. I feel like God uses our talents to bring us closer to Him, and He’s
used speedskating to bring me to His heart.”
Skating was a part of her family’s life as Bradford was growing up in
Minnesota. She began with figure skating but began speedskating because she
wanted to be like her two brothers who were heavily involved with the sport. At
age 13, Bradford left figure skating behind permanently to concentrate on
She moved to Utah when she was 18 to continue her training. As she left home,
she also left behind the Christian beliefs and doctrine she had been taught.
She knew the Bible but had decided it was just a story with no relevance to her
“I think it was just mostly a hard teenage heart and not really seeing the big
picture,” Bradford said. “At that point, skating was my religion. That’s what
gave me status and merit.”
Bradford, however, had a void in her life that she tried to fill with anything
she could find, resulting in what she described as a tormented lifestyle.
“I was actually in this relationship, and one of the things that ended it was
that this gentleman called me a Christian,” Bradford recounted.
“I’m not a Christian,” she told him. “You don’t call me a Christian. This
relationship is over.”
A few months later, on a whim, she attended a service at The Rock Church in
Salt Lake City. As she sat there listening to the sermon, Bradford had a sense
that God was speaking to her, affirming that everything she had learned as a
child — that Jesus was God in the flesh, that He lived a sinful life and died
on the cross to pay the penalty for sins, that He rose again from the dead —
was true. That was the moment of her conversion, and she was baptized a week
Life became more joyful for Bradford, the tormented lifestyle now a thing of
the past. She now sees speedskating as a form of worship in which she can feel
God’s pleasure in using her talents to glorify Him.
“In my prayers I actually ask God, as if He’s my coach, what I should do,”
Bradford said. “He’ll sometimes place thoughts in my head of what I need to
work on or what to focus on. It’s helped me with my relationships with my
coaches, with my teammates, my work ethic.”
That work ethic has led her to the Vancouver Olympics, where she will compete
Feb. 18 in the women’s 1000 meters.
“It’s more of a performance goal I have for my race,” Bradford said. “I don’t
know how I’m going to rank or place. Mostly I just want to go there and
represent God well and I want to be able to race my heart out and do the best I
can do, and take in all the experience.
“There are very few people who can experience going to the Olympic Games, and
it’s such an honor and privilege,” Bradford said. “I expect to learn a lot, and
I expect to race well.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Tim Ellsworth, in addition to his role as BPSports editor,
is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)