When Christina Clemons qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, the media latched on to her taste in fashion – namely, the Cool Ranch Doritos earrings that she wore during trials. But she was wearing something else when she won too: a cross necklace.
On June 20, Christina made Team USA after placing third in the 100-meter hurdles during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials. The 31-year-old hurdler from Waldorf, Maryland, isn’t new to success: She was an eleven-time All-American and ten-time Big Ten champion at Ohio State University. She’s won both silver and gold during world championships. But to get where she is today, she’s had to overcome some personal hurdles too – something she credits God for.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized to NBC, as she stopped to catch her breath after qualifying for the Olympics. In tears, she explained, “I’ve been going after this team since 2012. I ruptured my achilles in 2013. I wasn’t healthy enough in 2016. We had to wait a whole year in 2020. And now, here, I’ve been looked over, I’ve been counted out. But when God is with you, it doesn’t matter.”
She added, “I’m just so happy.”
Her nine-year journey to the Olympics began when she placed fifth during the U.S. 2012 trials, just missing the opportunity to participate in the London Olympics. She knew she would try again, but then, in 2013, she suffered from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. The injury was serious enough that it forced her to miss the 2016 Rio Olympics, on top of a series of strained hamstrings, a strained calf, and microtears in her left Achilles. But after Christina underwent emergency surgery, she eventually started to train again – beginning with relearning how to walk.
“I really just kept that faith, that hope and belief that God will get me to where I need to be. And that’s honestly what it was,” Christina told The Washington Post. “It wasn’t a person or someone I looked up to. It was just really just having faith in God and sticking to it.”
In media interviews and on social media, Christina is happily outspoken about her faith. Her Instagram account brims with praises to God, beginning with her bio where she lists “Psalm 130:5.” That psalm reads, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”
In a June 21 post where she announced her Olympic status, Christina shared a photo of her head bent with the caption reading, “Those who hope in the Lord.” On Twitter, where she identifies herself as “God’s kid,” she added, “GOD has a plan for me that no man can change. HALLELUJAH!! THANK YOU JESUS.”
In another triumphant post that same day, she wrote a message, “To everyone who has had set backs, to everyone who has had more disappointments than they can count, to everyone who has wanted to give up, to everyone who has lost more than they’ve won, to everyone who is waiting on a breakthrough.”
She pointed them to God.
“I just want you to see me as a walking testimony of where faith and grit can take you,” she stressed. “To be used by God as a symbol of hope is the BIGGEST blessing of my life.”
“The amount of love God has for you trumps the pain you feel and if you can just be patient (not your type of patient but Gods type of patient), and allow God to build your CHARACTER, you will turn out to be the best you possible,” she wrote. “You will begin to live in your purpose. You will shine and be set free! God can turn around any situation believe me, your time is coming and when it’s here you’ll appreciate at it so much more than you ever could have before!”
Christina spoke from personal experience. In 2016, she wrote of her 2013 injury that it “literally forced me to go hard every single day” as she learned how to walk again and, three years later, still hadn’t “mastered my gait.”
“Though I couldn't see exactly what God was doing at the time, he's beginning to remove his hands from my eyes and I must say bravo Lord,” she said. “Because if this never happened I would've never reached my full potential.”
“Even when it looks bad trust me when I say God is up there putting everything together in order for it to work just for you,” she said. “Do NOT give up, you may never forgive yourself.”
She’s also taken to social media to share words of hope and personal prayers to God. In one 2018 post, she prayed, “What I lack, you are full of.”
“Where I am broken you are whole and what I’m doubting you are sure of. So I’ll trust the lover of my soul,” she continued. “There is peace in freedom, and my freedom is in you.”
And, last year, she posted a message to those who feel unworthy of God’s love. She urged, “look at Paul, formerly known as Saul, the Christian Killer.”
“Whatever we’ve done in the past does not disqualify us for the purpose God has for our lives,” she typed. “We were already chosen before we even knew ourselves. For us to think our sins are bigger than Gods purpose is us thinking foolishly. We are messed up. God already knew that. He doesn’t need us to be perfect, he just wants us to be willing.”
While Christina recognizes her faith as her foundation, the media have avoided it in the past. In 2017, Christina highlighted how certain outlets “removed” a religious tattoo on her arm reading “Jesus is NOT dead” from photos of her at championships.
“[A]ll I have to say about that is ... Jesus STILL is not dead,” she concluded. And her life, she might add, is proof.