I am not even sure where I was this week when Noelle Pikus-Pace won her silver medal, but I can’t stop thinking about her victory and her story. She’s not only an Olympic champion who has brightened up the screen with her smiles, tenacity, and passion — she’s also inspiring a lot of Mormon folks right now as she shows the kind of impact faith and family have.
Yes, Pikus-Pace is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Read her Mormon.org profile here — obviously written before Sochi.) If you look at photos of her wearing her silver medal, you might also see her wearing the Young Women torch necklace (see our Facebook page) or the Young Women medallion. The torch is a reminder to stand and shine Christ’s light to others, and the medallion is a symbol of years of work of goal-setting and faith-building efforts through the Personal Progress program.
You’ve probably already heard her Skeleton story — from being at the top of the charts in the sport a decade ago (and, looking back, realizing that her sport came before family), to missing the Turin Olympics due to a freak (and serious) leg injury (a bobsled ran into her), to barely missing a podium spot in Vancouver, to retirement after Vancouver, to re-entering her sport after a devastating miscarriage (at 18 weeks) and prayerful, partnership-focused consideration.
The catch to her coming back to compete? Her family would travel together to everything.
How was this possible? Friends and family helped, and eventually she got a sponsorship, but the story that brought me to tears this week was about a couple who had a chance meeting with Noelle and decided to quietly hand her a card with a $30,000 check in it a week before they were set to start traveling.
Mormons talk about how important marriage and family are. It’s wonderful to see such a powerful, primetime-sports example of a family who lives that reality. Did you watch the video showing how she jumped into the stands to get to her family? And how she said, “Remember who you are and what you stand for!”? I love to see how Noelle and her husband works together (he even designed and built her sled: e.g., “For Pikus-Pace, the custom sled is a reminder of the couple’s enduring partnership. ‘It’s never been only me crossing finish line,’ she said. ‘It’s always been us.'”) I love seeing their determination to make this dream work, and only make it work if the family could do it together. Although their situation is definitely unusual, and the miracles that made this possible were significant, the principles of putting family (and faith) first are applicable to us all. (See this simple photo of Pikus-Pace attending LDS Sunday church meetings in Sochi.)
I’m reminded of a quote we read yesterday in Relief Society:
“Do you spend as much time making your family and home successful as you do in pursuing social and professional success? Are you devoting your best creative energy to the most important unit in society–the family?” (Joseph Fielding Smith)
p.s. Besides the smile and tears I experienced as I watched the last run online, hearing the commentator talk about how she started her run with eyes closed (the commentator assumes in prayer), and how it was her family that was everything as she did that last run, I cracked up to hear that she has 2 kilos of chocolate taped into her sled.
** Image from Noelle Pikus-Page Facebook fan page.