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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Born to Skate

By John W. Kennedy
July 4, 2010

Paul and Wanda Hedrick owned a roller skating rink in Spring, Texas, north of Houston. When Chad came into the world in 1977, rather than find a babysitter, the couple brought their newborn son with them to their business. At 18 months, Chad amused himself by skating around the rink up to eight hours a day. At age 8, he won his first national championship.

At 14, Chad switched to in-line skating, and his racing ability soon attracted sponsors. By 16, Chad pulled in $20,000 a year by pitching products.

Hedrick invented a technique called “the double push,” a revolutionary method that has become the standard method for in-line skaters.

“The technique was a blessing God gave to me,” Hedrick says. “But at the time, not being a Christian, I didn’t realize it was God’s gift.”

Instead, Hedrick resented people who suggested that God had enabled him to perform so well. He thought people should compliment him for the grueling work ethic he employed to become a great skater.

Hedrick went on to win 50 world gold medals as he skated in 34 countries. For 10 consecutive years, he reigned as overall world champion of in-line skating. He remains the most decorated in-line skater in history.

Looking for new challenges — and a more lucrative sponsorship payoff — Hedrick made the risky move of switching sports in 2002 at the age of 24. Yet Hedrick had no doubts about his ability to flourish as a speed skater.

“I aspired to do something bigger, better and greater,” Hedrick says. “The Olympics was the next step for me. I wanted people to recognize all the hard work I had done.”

After only 16 months as a speed skater, Hedrick became the all-around world champion in 2004. Few thought Hedrick could pull it off, for while he trained hard he also partied hard. By the time he went to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Hedrick had earned the dubious moniker “the Paris Hilton of speed skating.”

Sensing a lot of media and internal pressure, Hedrick displayed a cutthroat attitude against his competitors and sniped with fellow skater Shani Davis.

“I felt like the world was out to get me,” Hedrick says. “Now, I’m ashamed of the way I acted.”

Nevertheless, he won three medals at the 2006 Olympics: a bronze in the 1,500 meters, a silver in the 10,000 meters and gold in the 5,000 meters.

A woman’s touch
Hedrick’s softening toward God began because of a woman. He met Lynsey Adams online through a mutual friend. At the time, Chad lived in Salt Lake City in order to train for the 2010 Olympics. Lynsey lived in Houston. They initially corresponded via MySpace. It turned out that they attended the same high school and lived less than a mile apart growing up. But they never knew each other because Chad is seven years older than Lynsey.

After a few months, Lynsey and Chad began meeting in person. Whenever he encountered Lynsey’s churchgoing family, the members affectionately expressed their love with hugs, which Chad had been unaccustomed to growing up. Hearing members of the family talk about God’s love piqued Hedrick’s curiosity.

“I was eager to know what Christianity was about,” Hedrick says.

Lynsey’s brother, Austin Adams, a Baptist youth pastor in Texarkana, Texas, shared God’s truths during frequent phone calls with his future brother-in-law.

“I used to think being a Christian meant you were nerdy and not cool,” Hedrick says. “Now I know that as a Christian I can have a lot more fun than before.”

After dating for a year, Chad and Lynsey wed in June 2008.

“Marriage is what paved the path to have a true relationship with God,” says Hedrick, who committed his life to Christ early last year.

The couple welcomed daughter Hadley Angel in March 2009.

Discipleship training
After Chad became a Christian, the Hedricks began attending Capital Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Salt Lake City. Hedrick says Pastor Troy Champ helped him change his thought process as he trained for the Vancouver Olympics.

“Troy changed my whole outlook on what I thought a Christian should be — a real person,” says Hedrick, who was baptized last November. “He made a big impact on my life. I owe so much to him.”

The Hedricks worshipped in relative anonymity while attending Capital Church. Just before he went to Canada, Hedrick participated in a video interview about his faith (vimeo.com/8931657).

“His life has been utterly changed by God,” Champ, 34, says of Hedrick. “No matter what life handed him, Chad is chasing after God faster than any medal.”

At this year’s Winter Olympics, Hedrick again had something to prove: Not that he could be the best athlete, but rather that Jesus Christ had transformed his attitude. Above all, Hedrick hoped to be a good Christian example for the millions watching on television. Hedrick inscribed CGIM (See God in me) on the top of his skating blade. Family and friends wore T-shirts emblazoned with 1 Corinthians 9:25: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (NIV).

“I wanted people this year to see the difference in me,” Hedrick says. “Sometimes not finishing first and having a better attitude is more important in God’s plan. My lack of acknowledgement toward Him for all He gave me had been evident before. Now I want people to know that I need to lean on God.”

Rather than stress out about the events, Hedrick drew inspiration from the fact that his wife and daughter watched him from the stands. Hadley took her first steps during the games. Lynsey had suffered a miscarriage only three weeks before the competition began. Despite the tragedy, Chad and Lynsey experienced God’s peace.

Few experts had high expectations for Hedrick at the 2010 Games, given his age in a young man’s sport. But Hedrick surprised onlookers by winning a bronze medal in the men’s 1,000-meter speed skating competition as Shani Davis won the gold. Hedrick graciously walked over to Davis, shook his hand and patted him on the back afterwards. The reconciliation appeared complete at the awards ceremony as the smiling Davis and Hedrick each held a corner of an American flag on the victory stand.

Less than two months before turning 33, Hedrick teamed with Brian Hansen and Jonathan Kuck — both 19 — to win a silver medal in men’s team pursuit speed skating.

By winning a medal in that final race, Hedrick became one of only eight people ever to win at least five medals at a Winter Olympics. He tied Eric Heiden for winning the most medals ever by a men’s U.S. long track speed skater.

Hedrick says he didn’t perform up to the goals he set for himself, including a disappointing sixth-place finish in the 1,500 meters. Yet this time he is taking it in stride.

“I’m not supposed to win every race,” he says. “Not everything in my life is supposed to be perfect.”

Looking forward
Hedrick officially retired as an athlete after the Olympics. He has been keeping busy with commercial endorsements, speaking at churches and an annual charity golf tournament.

His Go for the Gold charitable foundation has raised more than a quarter-million dollars for Special Olympics.

“My parents made sure I didn’t have many obstacles to overcome,” Hedrick says. “I want to help these Special Olympians to accomplish their dreams like I did.”

Chad, Lynsey and Hadley moved into a new suburban Houston home in February. Unpacking, Hedrick found a dozen Bibles that friends had given to him before his conversion.

“God had been after me a long time,” he says. “He brought a lot of people into my life who tried to influence me.”

Hedrick is focused on being a good husband and dad.

“My whole outlook on life is completely different,” says Hedrick, who lives near his parents, who still operate that skating rink in Spring.

On this Independence Day, Hedrick is grateful to finally have found true freedom in Christ.

“I realize there’s a path for me now,” Hedrick says. “Christ is who I lean on through the hard times. It’s comforting to know I don’t have to worry about anything if I just follow His way and let Him take the steering wheel.”


JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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