Days after winning silver, Mormon Olympian Noelle Pikus-Pace goes to church, reflects on God's path for her

Published: Monday, Feb. 17 2014 8:05 a.m. MST

Noelle Pikus-Pace holds her daughter while attending church services in Sochi, Russia. Pikus-Pace was in Russia competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Amy Donaldson

SOCHI, Russia — It wasn’t vanity.

It wasn’t her competitive nature.

It wasn’t the desire to have something that everybody else would respect to show for her time in a sport that most people don’t even understand.

Noelle Pikus-Pace returned to the skeleton at 29 years old, taking along her husband and two young children, because she felt it was the path God wanted her to walk.

“I was happy, but not satisfied with my fourth-place finish (in the 2010 Olympics),” the Orem native, now 31, said Friday night, repeating a sentiment she’s expressed since she returned to the sport in June 2012 after two years away. “I retired. We were expanding our family and I was happy about it.”

She often spoke to young people about how to achieve their dreams. When she did, she showed a video of her final skeleton run in Vancouver. She talked about missing the medals podium by one-tenth of a second and how to find joy in the journey because whatever happens, there is purpose and love in it.

But when she watched the video with them, she also saw small mistakes that cost her a medal.

“I’ve thought about that quite a bit, and it just goes to show that it’s the small things that make a big difference,” Pikus-Pace said. “They can work in your benefit or to the negative.”

It was another heartache that pushed her to really question whether she was ready to leave the sport when she did. Pikus-Pace suffered a miscarriage in April 2012. She felt a kind of sadness that threatened to be consuming.

“After that happened, I was mentally gone,” she said. “I was physically, spiritually, in all aspects, I was drained. It was actually my husband who, again, brought back the point of no regrets.”

It was Janson Pace who built his wife a custom sled to help her come back from a horrific accident in 2006 when a bobsled left the track and hit her, shattering her leg.

And it was Janson who prayed with her and for her as the couple tried to decide if they should return to the sport — and more importantly, why.

“Before we came back into this whole adventure, we fasted, we prayed, we’d go to the (LDS) temple to try and figure out where we were supposed to go,” said Pikus-Pace after attending a Mormon worship service in Sochi two days after winning the Olympic silver medal. “Then we know we have agency to choose and in making that decision to move forward, have (God's) help all along the way.”

They didn’t have all of the answers in that moment. And the fact that Pikus-Pace felt purpose in her athletic endeavors didn’t mean she was without adversity. In fact, there were even times she wondered if she’d misunderstood what God wanted from her.

“There were a handful of times when I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ ” she said. “But I was immediately comforted by that peace of the Spirit, just knowing there is a greater plan out there. As I went into my Olympic race even, and I wasn’t feeling well (prior) to it, I thought, ‘Wow, what if I finish fourth again? What if I finish fourth again? What’s the purpose here? What am I supposed to be doing?' And there was that doubt that came into my head, and then there was just that reassurance that I’m here for a reason and Heavenly Father has been by my side. It was just this thought of all of these miracles that have happened all along the way to lead us to this point, and I’ve finished fourth in this past Olympics.”

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