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Published on 01 August, 2012

Nigerian runner chases more than gold

England (MNN) —  A doping scandal cost the United States 4 x
400 meter men's relay team their 2000 Olympic gold medal. Days before the Games began, the
International Olympic Committee stripped Team USA of its award and gave it to
the Nigerian team 12 years after the event was run.

That's on the minds of this year's Nigerian
athletes as they chase gold. In an
earlier briefing, Ambassador Olwatoyin Lawal, Deputy Nigerian High Commissioner to the
United Kingdom, has urged the team to remember they bear their country's honor. "Representing Nigeria comes with a lot
of responsibility; as flag bearers, you owe Nigeria a duty to be scandal-free," Lawal said.

Integrity plays a big role for the
athletes who are not only chasing gold but also are bearing the name of
Christ. Athletes like Idara Otu. She's a Nigerian-American track and field
athlete running under the green and white.

A
graduate of Stanford University and two-time All-American, she rejoined the "red
oval" community chasing a spot on the Nigerian 2012 Olympic Team. Now, she's training for the semi-finals for
the women's 4 x 400 m relay on August 10.

There's
been little buzz about the Nigeria's Olympic women track and field team members, although the
Chief Coach of Team Nigeria expressed hope that Nigeria's daughters would
medal. The last time that happened was
in 1996, where the team won silver.

The
pressure to perform can get overwhelming. Eking out extra hundredths of a second can create temptations as
athletes look for advantages over themselves and each other. However, for Otu and other athletes at the
Olympics, they share one thing in common: many
of them are devout Christians. 

These athletes have gone on record sharing
that their desire in competing is more about honoring God than striving for an
Olympic medal. Aside from the spectacle
of the Games, Otu says her first priority is to keep her mind focused on her
training. "Being that this is my first Olympic Games, I don't want to
say that I don't have any expectations. Of course, our expectation  s to be on the medal stand as a relay team,
but really it's to just compete well to bring pride to Nigeria as a country."

Throughout history, the lives of Olympic competitors have
served to inspire and challenge others on a personal level. Otu's bold faith and practical living helps
her stay on a mission to become a better follower of Christ. She says, "Really, it's staying focused and believing
in what the goal is and what the outcome is and regrouping. Not everything is
going to be easy; and just being a Christian or having faith does not mean
everything is going to be easy. It just helps to give you the strength to
overcome whatever obstacles that are in your way."

Otu's thoughts are also
applicable to her sport. Focus
is central to good, consistent races. Otu
maintains her focus with her favorite Scripture passage, Psalm 37:4. "'Delight yourself also in the Lord; and He shall give
thee the desires of your heart.' That's really what I live by. Obviously, I'm
not perfect, but I'm trying to be more Christ-like every day; but I always
think that if I'm delighting in Him, He's going to give me what's in my
heart." 

In the meantime, on the
road to the semi-finals, Otu strives for more than gold. 

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