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[OLYMPICS] Kimido Hirai Soldati (Diver & a Christian)

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  • madchinaman
    Wilkinson, Soldati share passion for diving, God By: Darrell Hamlett , Assistant Sports Editor 7/14/2004 http://www.kimiko-usa.com/conroe-laura_and_i.htm
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 10, 2004
      Wilkinson, Soldati share passion for diving, God
      By: Darrell Hamlett , Assistant Sports Editor 7/14/2004

      It's what drives athletes to become the best that they can be.
      It also can be what turns two strangers into best friends.

      In the case of Laura Wilkinson and Kimiko Soldati, it has done both.

      The U.S. Olympic diving teammates have forged a strong friendship
      based on their shared passions for diving and for God.

      Diving is what first brought the Texas native and Colorado native

      "We were actually good friends before from when we dived at the
      Goodwill Games in 1998," said Soldati who grew up outside of Denver
      and went to college at Indiana University. "We kept in contact
      through e-mail and at diving meets."

      Their relationship began to really grow in 2000 after Wilkinson won
      the women's platform gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. Seeing
      Wilkinson's success, Soldati decided to move to The Woodlands to
      train with Wilkinson and her coach Kenny Armstrong.

      "I think a lot of divers would have felt threatened about that,"
      said Soldati. "I never thought about how I would have felt in her
      shoes, but Laura opened her arms and welcomed me."

      Wilkinson says Soldati is a person that it's hard not to want to
      work with.

      "Kimiko, it's hard not to love her," she said. "She's just awesome.
      She's a great friend and an awesome role model. ... She's inspiring
      everyday with the way she speaks. She has so much insight into
      everything. She's great."

      Training together every day helped strengthen their relationship as
      well as their diving. The two have combined to win four individual
      national titles since 2000 as well as earned several top finishes in
      other national and international events.

      Their diving relationship reached a peak earlier this year when they
      began training as synchronized partners on the 10-meter platform. At
      the XIVth FINA Diving World Cup, they earned a spot in the Olympics
      for the Americans by finishing fourth.

      Wilkinson and Soldati were hoping to be able to be the ones to
      represent to the U.S. in that event in Athens, but last month they
      finished second to Sarah Hildebrand and Cassandra Cardinell at the
      U.S. Olympic Trials.

      "It was very disappointing," said Wilkinson. "Our dreams were to
      make it together. We brought back the Olympic spot and we wanted to
      take it. We were just off and didn't do it. But we did it together
      and enjoyed the experience. And we both made the team together."

      "It was disappointing," added Soldati. "Laura and I felt that we had
      a legitimately good shot to medal at the Athens games, so it was
      difficult to swallow.

      Despite not qualifying in the synchro event, Wilkinson and Soldati
      each made the team in individual events. Wilkinson earned a chance
      to defend her platform gold by finishing first in that event while
      Soldati won the 3-meter springboard at the Trials.

      One of the ways Soldati and Wilkinson got through their
      disappointment at the Trials was by relying on their other passion,
      their faith.

      "If isn't God's will, we have to be OK," said Soldati. "We were not
      happy. It's a bummer we're not diving there together, but God has a
      plan and He'll make good. We trust that. It was difficult and
      upsetting, but God's will be done."

      It is their shared faith in God that has helped draw Wilkinson and
      Soldati closer together away from the pool. A devout Christian,
      Wilkinson was one of the reasons Soldati began to develop her faith
      in God.

      "One thing that drew me to Christ was seeing the peace that those
      who had Christ in their life had," said Soldati. "I realized that
      they have something that I wanted. I researched and looked into it.
      I wanted to get it all figured out. I read the Bible, I asked
      questions to try to figure it all out. But ultimately it's a step of
      faith which is something no one can explain because that is what
      faith is."

      Despite learning from those around her, Soldati had a difficult time
      finally turning her life over to Christ.

      "I had a difficult time because my whole life I thought I could
      control everything," she said. "My pride was so big I thought I
      don't need anybody else. I was so strong I could do everything on my
      own. So it was difficult for me to accept, but it was the best thing
      I've ever done. I found peace, calmness, and love like you wouldn't

      Soldati said Wilkinson and her strong faith had a big influence on
      her and her decision to follow Christ.

      "I think God put her in my path for a reason. She helped bring me to
      know Him better," she said. "It's a unique and rare thing to have
      two athletes who share a strong Christian faith and realize why they
      are doing what they are doing. Before I found Christ, I wanted to
      win gold. Now that I've come to Christ, and Laura helped reveal this
      to me, diving isn't who I am, it's what I do. I'm only able to do it
      because God gifted me."

      Likewise, Wilkinson said that Soldati has impacted her walk with God.

      "We pray before events and look things up in the Bible. She's a huge
      part of my growth with Jesus in the last few years. It's awesome to
      share that with somebody."

      This year, Wilkinson and Soldati's shared passions combined in a
      wonderful way for the duo as they trained together as synchro

      "We had so much fun," said Soldati. "Those few months training
      together were the time of my life. Up there, the whole world fell
      away. We would smile, sing. We were diving for God and for each

      While they won't be diving together in the synchro in Athens,
      Wilkinson and Soldati are glad to be heading to the Games together.

      "I think I was more excited when she made the team than when I did,"
      said Wilkinson.

      And no matter what happens at the Olympics, Wilkinson and Soldati
      know they've got more to their friendship and their lives than just

      "When we were diving synchro, we knew who we were diving for," said
      Soldati. "We wanted to win and we trained to win, but there's a
      larger purpose well beyond medals, placement, and results."


      My Testimony

      I know that God has been working in my life and ordering my steps
      well before I knew anything about Him. I did not grow up knowing
      anything about God or who He was or that I could have a relationship
      with Him.

      I was a gymnast for many years, but had a knee injury that ended my
      gym career. It brought me into diving and through Colorado State,
      to Indiana where I met my husband to down here to train in the
      Woodlands with my coach Kenny and ultimately to find Jesus.

      When I arrived here, Kenny asked me one day if I knew Jesus. I
      actually laughed at him because I didn't want or think I had a need
      for Jesus or anyone for that matter. I was in control of my life
      and I could make anything happen by my strength. I was living at
      the Yarbroughs, friends of my family from Colorado and they let my
      husband and I live with them until we built our house. They were
      coming to the Ark and had invited us to come along. We went one
      Sunday and I was surprised at myself that I like it and Pastor Alan
      was so amazing and real.

      We continued to come to church and I had a hunger in me to figure
      out what this whole Christian thing was about. I asked a lot of
      questions to Don and Peggy, and I saw how they lived and I saw Alan
      and Joy and I saw that they had something that I didn't have and
      that I wanted.

      I saw peace.

      So I started reading the Bible and poured through the whole thing.
      I was extremely resistant to saying yes to Jesus, it went so against
      my nature and every time Alan led the prayer, I would sit on my
      hands and say no way, not yet. I had a big problem with the whole
      faith thing. I wanted to get it all figured out and understand it
      all before I made a decision, but that is not faith.

      Finally after months and months of agonizing over the decision to
      say yes, my husband and I raised our hands and I was saved. Now,
      after I raised my hands, I was like- "This is it?". I feel exactly
      the same, I still have all the same questions, same doubts- I guess
      I was expecting lighting bolts and angels singing. So I continued
      learning and trying to `get' this whole Christian thing.

      One day on my way to Nationals, I was reading a book by Christian
      athletes talking about giving it to God, letting it go to God and
      glorifying God. I didn't `get' it. I told Adam, I don't
      understand. What do they mean? I was frustrated because I didn't
      feel what they meant.

      So I am on the plane and I guess I am praying, didn't really know
      what that was, but God gave me a vision. I am underground, in a
      tunnel. And I am digging away at the tunnel with my fingers trying
      to get where I wanted to be as fast as I could do it.

      Dirt is flying, my hands are sore, I am sweating but doggone it, I
      will get there! As I am digging, I realize there is someone
      standing next to me. I kind of turn to see who it is, and it was
      Jesus. I don't stop my digging, but say to myself, that's nice-I
      guess, hi how are ya, I got work to do.

      So I am back to my digging. Dirt is flying less, things are going
      slower and I am starting to get tired. So as I'm digging, I notice
      that the guy, Jesus, next to me has a shovel. `Ok' I thought, `He
      wants to help me out here'.

      After some time, I finally stop digging and turn to Him and accept
      the shovel. There, I've accepted help and in spite of my pride
      realize it would be nice to have a little help. So I turn back to
      my wall and start using the shovel. Yea, I think. This is so much
      easier. I have a second wind and continue digging away.

      Things are going much faster, much easier and I'm getting where I
      want to be more efficiently. But, as time moves on, I am tired.
      Really tired. Really, really tired. I am barely getting the shovel
      up to dig into the wall. My hands are killing me and my whole being
      is sore. I lean on my shovel and say to myself, `I am so sick and
      tired of doing this on my own. I can't do this any more. I just

      It is all too much and I don't want to do this anymore. Then I
      realize Jesus is standing there with his hands held out, palms up.
      I look at his hands, then at His face.

      I realize then, He wants me to give Him the shovel. I turn to Him.
      I have a questionable look on my dirt-smeared face. `You want me to
      give You the shovel?' Whoa. I am totally freaked out.

      I look at my options, continue to try and do this on my own in my
      own strength, with sore and aching muscles, not making much
      progress, frustrated, exhausted, discouraged, or let Him do it.

      I slowly raise my shovel, holding- no gripping my shovel above his
      outstretched hands. I stand there frozen. I am terrified. I am in
      a place I have never been in, in all my life. I look up at his
      sweet face. `I am so scared to give this to you.'

      He speaks to me in a soft and gentle voice. `It's ok to be scared,
      I am here.' Panicking I say `I really don't want to give this to
      you. What if you don't take me where I want to be. What if you
      start digging in another direction, what if I want to be there and
      you take me here, what if, what if, what if.' He doesn't try and
      talk me into it. He just comforts me. He soothes me. I know by
      His presence He could stand there for eternity holding his arms out
      to take my shovel. "I am not going anywhere," he whispers.

      My knuckles are white on my sore hands gripping my shovel above his
      nail-scarred hands. I sit like this for what feels like forever.
      Probably ten minutes. I am bawling in my seat on the plane, the
      fellow next to me probably thinks I am insane. I don't care. My
      fingers begin to loosen on the handle, it is so hard to move my
      fingers which have been gripping the wood, hanging on for dear

      I look into His eyes and all I see is love and acceptance. I lower
      the shovel until it rests on His hands and with my heart pounding
      out of my chest, tears streaming down my face I finally let go. I
      feel release. I feel freedom. I feel frightened but safe. I
      understand that I will let Him do the digging. I will let Him do
      the leading. I will be there the whole time in that tunnel with
      Him, right beside Him doing it together. I will follow where He
      leads me. I know I can trust Him with my shovel.

      So, after this defining experience I open my eyes. The poor guy
      next doesn't know what to do. I wipe off my tears and my snot, and
      I open the book I was reading that morning with my husband. Wow- I
      get it! I get it- I really get it.

      Now I understand what it means to let it go.

      Now I understand what it means to give it to God.

      The scales had fallen from my eyes and I understand how He wants to
      be in my life. He is control of my shovel and He is the one digging
      and navigating my tunnels of life. I still struggle with control.
      Sometimes I find myself without knowing it, that I've pushed Him out
      of the way and started digging again with my fingers.

      With dirt flying and my hands frantically clawing at the walls, I
      realize what I've done. I stop. Embarrassed, I turn around to Him
      as He stands waiting for me stop. I lower my head and say I'm
      sorry. He lifts my chin and says, "It's ok, I love you." I step
      aside and clear the way for Him to take up my shovel and continue
      His work.

      I can't tell you how many times I have `taken my shovel back' but I
      know He is faithful to be patient with me and will never get fed up
      with me and walk out my tunnel. He is in it for the long haul,
      through the darkness, dampness, and impenetrable walls. He will be
      there. And so will I.
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