August 9th, 2012
02:56 PM ET

Gold medalist returns to Olympics as spiritual guide

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

London (CNN)– Madeline Manning Mims has a message for the athletes at the London Olympics.

"They are loved. They are a part of humanity in a very special way and what they do matters," Mims said.

She's not talking about being loved by the fans - she's talking about being loved by God.

Mims is a gospel singer and a sports chaplain, and she's no stranger to the Olympics.

She used to be a track and field star herself, and made history at the 1968 Olympic Games, when she shattered the myth that black women were no good at the 800 meters.

She got an extraordinary pep talk before her race.

The great American Olympian Jesse Owens, who'd shown Adolf Hitler that the Nazis' racist beliefs were wrong, spoke to the U.S. team about the 1936 Games.

American athletes tweet God, Bible at Olympics

"It was the most moving thing that I had ever heard in my life. Everybody was moved to tears," she said.

But there was a surprise yet to come - when she met Owens in person, she found out he had been following her track career because they were both from Cleveland.

"I was fascinated that this man, this legend, knew me of all people," she remembered, her eyes aglow. "He reached out and hugged me and said, 'You're ready. This is your time, go out there and get that gold.' And I said, 'Yes sir,' and proceeded to do that."

The 1968 games saw controversy in the form of Black Power protests, but nothing like what happened at Mims' second Olympics, at Munich in 1972.

The Israeli team was attacked by Palestinian terrorists.

"The women's U.S. track and field dormitory was directly adjacent to the Israeli dormitory, so when we went out on the porch of one of our sprinters we were looking right at the action.

"We couldn't figure out what was going on," she recalled.

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Then one of the terrorists shifted his position.

"When he turned we saw the gun and we just all fell silent for a moment. And one of the girls said, 'Is that a machine gun?' It must have hit us all at the same time because we all just turned and ran for the door," she said.

"Of course we blocked the door and nobody could get out and I had a horrible feeling. ... I thought he's going to get really upset that we're making all this noise and just start shooting. And I could just imagine bullets riveting through my back. I was just so scared," she said.

Eleven Israelis, a German policeman and five terrorists died in the Black September attack.

But the Games went on - and so did Mims, who found herself mothering her teammates more and more over time.

"A couple times I didn't run such good races when I was up till 2 or 3 in the morning trying to help another athlete deal with different issues," she said.

Only later did she realize this was all preparation to become a chaplain.

"It was just natural for me to do because of my Christian beliefs. That's what we are taught to do, serve - serve others," Mims said.

Mims, the former Olympian, at the piano.

The Olympic Games have had official chaplains since Seoul, South Korea, in 1988. Mims was invited to be part of that first group.

"There were only two women called, one lady who spoke nine languages from Switzerland, and myself - and 25 men from all over the world," she remembered.

Many of them, she suspected, probably thought she shouldn't be there - but she thinks she's been a help to athletes, because she knows what they're going through.

"The thing is a lot of people don't understand is that in competition there is a lot of fear and pain. It's a part of who an athlete is. And to get through that, to break through that, so that you can produce at your highest level, many of them pray for God's help," she said.

That's why it's so common to see athletes thanking God for their successes, she said.

"They are really thanking Him for helping them to get through this, to be able to do what He created them to do," she said.

Sometimes athletes come to her for counsel, and she doesn't say a thing.

"They want to you to tell them something, but you just let them talk themselves through it. A lot of times and they get up and say, 'You've been so helpful, I feel so much better,' and I haven't said anything," she said, bursting into laughter.

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She consoles the ones who don't achieve what they hoped to, and assures those who ask whether they are doing the right thing.

"A lot of times athletes feel a lack of value because they have to be so focused on themselves," she explained.

Her message to them is simple: "You're right where you're supposed to be, doing what God created you to do. It's OK. He's happy with you."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Christianity • Sports

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soundoff (295 Responses)
  1. A priest's penis is not healthy for an altar boy's ass and other living things

    Prayer changes nothing.

    August 10, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  2. Bootyfunk

    she seems like a nice lady. too bad she's in a cult.

    August 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • You're an atheist if

      Tom? No. This one has issues that pop up here and there but it's usually sound. It'll be back tomorrow right as rain.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  3. Young Autistic Man

    Calling anyone a retard is foolish. Regardless of his beliefs or non-beliefs, most likely the man or woman is not mentally-retarded.

    August 9, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's kind of like a handshake. Just something defectives do when they recognize each other.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  4. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    It's rewarding to stay in touch with the spiritual world. The tards don't have a monopoly on it. Don't ever let them think they do. When I had syphilis I was repelled by all the needles, chromed instruments, and white coats of the white way. After consultation with some people I really trust I turned to the Moon Cure and the Way of the Red Ant. I was more than cured. I crossed over into a special realm that stays with me, inside me, to this day.

    August 9, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sweetie, you really need to make more of an effort. That little squib won't cut it.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Do let the grownups get on with the important stuff. Go find Keith and play.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Find him yourself, tard. He's more your speed than mine.

      You seem to be in need of a piñata.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      some monkey-s.pank steal your name again, tom?

      August 9, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah. I must have pizzed off a herbie again.

      Poor little dweebs.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Bob

      @Tom Damage control? I like it when you seem almost human.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      don't the christard thieves know that stealing is a sin? see ya in hell!

      August 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What are you vomiting on about now, Booby Hatch?

      Do you ever have a sentient moment or are you delusional 24/7?

      August 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Bob

      @Tom I think your sock puppets have sock puppets. You're ridiculous.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not nearly as ridiculous as some grampa who can't get it up anymore worrying about gay marriage.

      When are you going to find a woman to sleep with, Booby?

      August 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And now you've bored me to drowsiness, Boob the Dope.

      Go screw your teddy bear.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  5. Jack

    Hello. Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    August 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Drop dead.

      August 9, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What is that, Jack? Someting about eternal flames and "Please won't you sign up for our newsletter and give us a few bucks?" You're a strange little boy.

      August 9, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  6. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    We don't get to choose our spirit guide. Mine, as you might have supposed, is the kukushe.

    August 9, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And my little worshipper's is "brown-eye".

      August 9, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Welcome and embrace your animal. It will show you the way and protect you. Or at least when roasted and pulled it will make a fine barbecue.

      August 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • onehippypoet

      tom tom the pipers son
      stole a pig
      and i guess we can deduce
      what has happened based on
      its last post

      August 9, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    August 9, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Timmuh

      Spamming nor prayer changes things.

      August 9, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • just sayin

      Truth is never spam. God bless

      August 9, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Prayer changes everything

      August 9, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      actions cause change; prayer wastes valuable time.

      August 9, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! ,.

      August 10, 2012 at 10:45 am |

    Professional contact only from now on.
    Since I'm not desperate, this rules out s-e-x with Britain, America & Israel.
    Did you happen to think professional contact was gay?
    Professional contact was never meant to fool you.
    I'm a fine upstanding lady's man.

    August 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm |

    I've had enough of Britain, America & Israel. It's time something really bad happened to them. Something really ghastly like a massive earthquake or even Armageddon.

    August 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  10. RCC

    Silly hateful atheists come out in mass behind the mask of the computer. Always very interesting how none of you seem to be around in the real world.You really need to ask yourselves why you bother coming here. If all you do is make insulting hateful comments then regardless of your beliefs you are behaving badly.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Do you know any atheists? Do you know "what" an atheist is?

      August 9, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Why don't you look at atheists as an opportunity to find the weakest spots in your perspective and fix them? Just think, if you could find a way to convince even the skeptics, you'd have power unmatched by all other philosophies or beliefs. The peer review process in science makes the theory put forth stronger because it must overcome the very best objections. Why do you see as bad something the scientific community refuses to do without?

      August 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • sam

      You forgot to blather something aimless about 'those liberals'.

      August 9, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How do you know that none of us is around in the "real world", you moron? Doesn't it occur to you that not everyone needs to wear a religious belief on his/her sleeve?

      Some of us are content to serve anonymously. We don't need to broadcast our deeds publicly. Too bad you do.

      August 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • an atheist is

      a self deceived liar

      August 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And you're a little weenie.

      August 9, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Timmuh

      When you enter the public debate, you might expect to hear some things that go against what you have already decided to believe. If you want to meet people who agree with you, despite not have any evidence what-so-ever for your unsubstantiated wishful thinking, go to church.

      August 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • BillyJ

      People who Christians identify as sinners get killed in the real world.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • tallulah13

      RCC: Perhaps the atheists you know would rather not tell you that they are not believers, because they know that you will react as you have here: Like a jerk.

      I am not ashamed or afraid of my atheism. If the topic comes up, I will be the first to confirm that "Yes, indeed. I am an atheist."

      August 10, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  11. Kevin

    How is this a top story? This story is not interesting in the least. I mean, seriously?

    August 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  12. Chaos

    Great. Some delusional chick is going around bothering people about some fictional invisible old guy is really in to them.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • R. Harris

      Amen! Oh what Yeah!

      August 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  13. cecil worthington

    Those who do not accept the love of Jesus Christ will spend an eternity untangling their entrails and subsisting on their own excrement. God is full of love, and only by accepting this love can eternal torment and agony be avoided. That is a simple fact.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Chaos

      If it really is a "simple fact" then there must be some evidence of it. What is the evidence exactly?

      August 9, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • just sayin

      I hope that was sarcastic, because if it was not, you should think about what you wrote.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Ben A. W.

      What a deranged rant of god-garbage. Keep taking the meds Cecil.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • just sayin

      That was @cecil by the way. If cecil is serious he needs to take a moment to reflect on what he wrote.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • m

      "Those who do not accept the love of Jesus Christ will spend an eternity untangling their entrails and subsisting on their own excrement. God is full of love, and only by accepting this love can eternal torment and agony be avoided. That is a simple fact."

      – and you have proof of this somehow or should I just take your word for it? You are either the funniest person here or the dummest.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I wouldn't trust such love nor accept it, then. If he is capable of inflicting such unimaginable and never ending horrors upon those he created, then I want nothing of him–certainly not his approval or concern.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @cecil worthington

      " Those who do not accept the love of Jesus Christ will spend an eternity untangling their entrails and subsisting on their own excrement. God is full of love, and only by accepting this love can eternal torment and agony be avoided. That is a simple fact."

      W -T – F ?!?!? 😯


      August 9, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      "Those who do not accept the love of Jesus Christ will spend an eternity untangling their entrails and subsisting on their own excrement. God is full of love, and only by accepting this love can eternal torment and agony be avoided. That is a simple fact."

      Lets change that up and see if it makes any sense to you at all or has any impact:

      Those who do not accept the love of Aeacus will spend an eternity untangling their entrails and subsisting on their own excrement. Zeus is full of love, and only by accepting this love can eternal torment and agony be avoided. That is a simple fact.

      August 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • just sayin

      Jesus is Lord. God bless

      August 9, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I think that it's hysterically funny that you make this comment about entrails, and in the same breath claim that your god "is love".

      August 10, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  14. TheVocalAtheist

    Utter nonsense, am I obligated to respect her belief of the unproven?

    August 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Danny

      Nope you don't. It's called bigotry, and you are better at it than most Christians I know.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • tohuvabohu

      TheVocalIdiot, I respect your right to be an idiot, even though your being an atheist doesn't disprove anything.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Ridgely

      Do you honestly think any God would reveal himself to people so obviously? Do you think any person would have free will? We would be slaves to God if there were undeniable proof. Stop being such a child and expecting everything to be perfectly explained to you. Only a fool would discount the possibility of God.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      To all of you that responded thus far, listen carefully; Here we have a person that is making a claim about a god. There is no proof of such a thing. How am I being a bigot? I did not claim there is a god, she did and obviously you believe it as well. You have the burden of proof, not I.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Ben A. W.

      No you are not obligated at all.
      That's what the religionites and PC terrorists would want U to accept. As Nancy Reagan said, "Just say no ...to bad drugs."

      August 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Ridgely

      We're here and that there is a reasonable possibility that something beyond us (God) created us.

      You're never going to get conclusive proof in the way you think of proof. So you can whine and say – "nobody ever showed me proof", or you can investigate the possibility, recognize how much there is that is mysterious and unexplained about the metaphysical universe, recognize how much evidence there is of a design rather than total chaos, and at least not disrespect those that belief. "Am I obligated to believe......." grow up, realize God is possible, the idea of God, real or not, gives billions happiness, and move on.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      "We're here and that there is a reasonable possibility that something beyond us (God) created us. "

      Please explain the reasonable possibility as there is no proof of anything "creating" us.

      "You're never going to get conclusive proof in the way you think of proof. "

      Because there is "no conclusive proof".

      At this juncture I cannot go on as you fill in the gaps with "mysterious", "metaphysical" and "god". I don't settle for what you have settled for, an empty promise with no substance. You are too lazy to think for yourself.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Timmuh

      @Danny, I'm required to tolerate her beliefs not respect them. There are many beliefs that people have that you don't respect. Most probably the ones that harm people without any evidence for their supernatural claims. You know, like yours.

      August 9, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Timmuh

      @Ridgely, Reductionism, or the ability to explain complex phenomena from a simpler set, is the demonstrable way of The Universe, and life on this planet, in that all structures are irreducibly complex step by step. The Universe is nothing more than gravity acting on hydrogen. Moreover, even if I was to grant you that the order of The Universe was proof of a god, which I have not, you can only claim Deism and still have an impossible gulf to cross in proving that that god is your god. As the late and great philosopher David Hume stated: What’s more likely, the natural order is suspended or a minx should tell a lie?

      August 9, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • just sayin

      To answer the original question "YES." You injected the lie that it is not proven to confuse the issue. God bless

      August 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  15. nostrildamus

    CNN be trollin.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Ridgely

      Totally. CNN already did the Tebow thing making all religious people out to be "nutters" (although there are many). Still waiting on that Religious Groups Contributions to Charities that shows religion in a positive light article. And still waiting

      August 9, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  16. zulu2

    You better be careful because the religious bigot sports writers will eat you alive. Kindest Regards Zulu2

    August 9, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  17. Ben A. W.

    Sorry HeavenSent,
    I'm not into the carpenter cult. I guess you R.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  18. just sayin

    Prayer changes otherwise rational people into believing in imaginery friends.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  19. just sayin

    Truth be told.


    August 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  20. Ben A. W.

    Yawn frigging Yawn.
    So much man made religion, so many man made gods.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Only one true God. You will burn unlsess you accept Jesus's gift.


      August 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      The hate from HS fills us all...keep it up HS and your imaginary friend god might have a conversation with its imaginary arch enemy satan and find a special place for you in that imaginary place you call hell...your delusion, you can enjoy it!

      August 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.