“In sport, as in life, the pursuit of a dream is a journey of transformation.”
It’s a quote written on the wall as you walk toward the ice surfaces in the Richmond Olympic Oval, a beautiful facility built for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I always found that this quote nicely reflected the echoes of my heart, and especially now, in the first few months following my retirement from competition as a short track speed skater.
I was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, and dabbled in a number of sports before settling on speed skating as a thirteen-year-old. I first tried the sport when my mom signed me up for a speed skating summer camp, as we lived close to the Calgary Olympic Oval, a facility built for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games that proudly houses the fastest ice in the world.
Shortly into my speed skating career, I decided to specialize in short track, which allowed me to train in the Olympic Oval Program.
Years later, during my eighth season, I was working on completing my bachelor’s degree in community rehabilitation. At the same time, I was doing my final practicum at an organization where I was offered full-time work immediately following my graduation.
It had always been my plan to retire from competition after graduation. I wanted to pursue my career and believed that training twice-a-day, six days-a-week, and travelling for competitions was impractical while having a full-time career.
As my last race and training sessions came and went, it began to sink in that it was the end. Over the years I had fallen deeply in love with my sport. The only way I can describe it is that it felt like I was ripping my own heart out. It destroyed me to part with speed skating, but I felt it was necessary to follow my plan.
In March 2016, I announced to my friends and family that I had decided to retire from competition. However, as it turns out, God had slightly different plans for me.
Later that same day, the Olympic Oval’s short track program director reached out to inform me of an opportunity to train part-time in the Olympic Oval Program. We settled on training twice-a-week. However, I decided I was not going compete as I didn’t want to see my results suffer due to a lack of training.
God was providing in ways that I did not expect. Suddenly, I had the opportunity to pursue my love for speed skating while also growing in my new career. I was surrounded with coaches and teammates who supported me while I tried to figure out how to balance work and sport.
In that season, I began to have many opportunities to invite my teammates to church, read the Bible with them and share my faith. The funny thing is, I never had to plead with my teammates. They often approached me, or it just came up in conversation. I began to pray for boldness and opportunity.
I remember sharing my faith with a teammate one evening and my heart was racing. I was so scared of facing rejection because of my faith. I shared with him about my fear, and he was surprised to hear that I would be scared of someone rejecting me for my story. In that moment, I realized that Jesus Christ is my story, and that I have the freedom to speak genuinely and passionately about it, even if it means I may face rejection. I also learned that if I shared my faith with kindness and gentleness, I could expect the same in return.
1 Peter 3:13-17 says, “13Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. 15But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
By the time October came around, I was hitting better times in training than I had ever before, despite only training twice a week. I began to think about competing again.
In December, I decided to step back into racing and God blessed me with a personal best during my first race back in competition. To me, that was another confirmation that I was where God wanted me to be.
I was completely hooked on speed skating again and decided to skate my tenth season as a full-time athlete in the Olympic Oval Program. Working and training full-time was very difficult to manage, and quite honestly, proved to be impossible. So, this past March, I ended up retiring for good. However, in my last season, God not only allowed me to skate personal bests in all my distances, but He continued to provide me with opportunities to share my faith with my teammates.
In March, I was able to witness one of my teammate’s transformation as she accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, and was baptized soon after. We attend Church together now. I have never loved speed skating more. Unlike during my first retirement, I was, and continue to be, overwhelmed with a God-given sense of peace about retirement from competition.
When I was a young girl, my Bible study teacher suggested that God could use me in my sport to fulfill His plan. At the time, it sounded like a nice idea to me, but I had no idea how God would use speed skating to completely transform my life for His glory.
I was a girl with an Olympic dream, and despite falling short of that, the journey I’ve been on has been more fulfilling than my wildest imagination. It will always blow my mind how God gave me a love and passion for speed skating, and just by doing what I love, working hard at training, and taking small steps in my faith, that I would be able to do His work.
Romans 8:28 says, “28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
I know with all my heart that God has, and continues to work for my good and remind myself to put my trust in Him. As I watched my teammate get baptized this past Easter, it felt like God was saying to me that His will had been done.
I learned through my speed skating career, especially during the last two seasons, that our God is a sovereign God. Will you join me in praying this over your life as I do in this new chapter of life?
Ask God, “What do you have for me? What work will entrust me with?”
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ask God to make my desires match His will, as His plan should fulfill the desires and longings of my heart.
Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Lastly, thank you Mom, from the bottom of my heart, for teaching me first and foremost to pursue God’s heart. And secondly, for introducing me to the sport of speed skating. We’ve been on a journey we never expected, and you’ve found a way to support me every step of the way.
To any past teammates and coaches who may be reading this, thank you for journeying with me. It’s been a wonderful joy.
Brittany Yuen is a retired speed skater who trained in the Olympic Oval Program in Calgary, Alberta.