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

One of those miracles included recovering from what she suspected might be a concussion. Pikus-Pace blacked out while training a week and a half before her Olympic competition. She didn’t feel well so she had an MRI, which was clear of any problems. She only took two of her allowed eight training runs, and she admits she struggled with doubt in that moment. Had she come this far to miss the competition for which her family, friends and community had helped her prepare?

So she did what she has done every time life has tried to break her heart or shake her faith. She went to her knees with her husband and asked for support and guidance.

“Any time I’ve had an injury or doubts or fears, that’s something we’ve really had strength in is our testimony of the priesthood power,” Pikus-Pace said. “Not just that (blessings from priesthood holders) should be given at the beginning of a school year or maybe necessarily when something traumatic comes up.”

It's an LDS doctrine that Pikus-Pace believes has sustained her throughout her tumultuous journey to the medal stand in Sochi, Russia.

“That’s something so sacred and so special that we have here on earth,” she said. “Heavenly Father’s power within the priesthood power to bless our lives any time that we feel Satan’s power over us, we can use in our lives and that’s something that we’ve really strengthened our faith in, is the power of the priesthood. It’s one of God’s greatest tools that we can use on earth today, to help us in this battle that really is going on.”

It’s prayer that brought her comfort when she faced disappointment — on or off the track. It is prayer that helped her make decisions when she questioned whether she was doing what she wanted or following God’s directives.

Her faith has also helped her keep any competitive desires in perspective.

“There’s a lot of times when you start looking at one person, and thinking, ‘I just want to beat them,’ ” she said. “You start getting these negative thoughts about a person, a team or a country, and it’s really hard. When you start to feel those things, you have to think, ‘OK, is this leading me toward Christ? Or away from him?’ There is always this black and white area, where you can say, 'Am I getting closer to my Savoir? Or is this pulling me farther away?’ ”

And then, if she decides those feelings are taking her away from God, she has a unique solution for an elite athlete.

“You really have to find a way to show love,” Pikus-Pace said. “And one of the best ways is to serve or compliment or just get outside that mentality that Satan wants us to be in and stop comparing ourselves to each other and really focus on being our best.”

After the Sunday worship service, while her husband shepherded her children from a chapel that's little more than a barren room on the third floor of a strip mall, Pikus-Pace talked with members of her faith who speak English. They asked about her medal and within seconds, she produced it. They took pictures, told her how her story inspires them and wished her well.

They went off to Sunday School in a place that looks more like abandoned office space than an LDS church facility. The only indication that this is a house of worship is the recognizable Mormon music and a placard that says “Sacrament Hall” above a glass door.

Still, Pikus-Pace, who was joined at church services by LDS luge athlete Kate Hansen, said this is where her heart and purpose are. It is the reason she can find peace, regardless of the expectations of others. Gold may have been her goal, but silver is her reward, and she knows that’s what was meant to be.

“My faith in what we’re doing and our purpose isn’t surrounded by a color of a medal,” she said. “That isn’t what it’s about. The journey that we’ve had, the people we’ve been able to share this experience with, and the smiles and lives we’ve been able to touch made it all worth it.”

Part of her message is that life is inevitably difficult and disappointing, and that with God’s help, it’s possible not just to endure but to be truly happy.

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