Interview: Olympic Gold Medalist Josh Davis on Christian Athletes, the Games, and Michael Phelps

Davis: I know, I know! I'm sure there are old YouTube TV interviews of back-in-the-day when he was more famous. But I think this would be a great movie, this guy's life is insane. But how he totally turned it around and made it for good. And he brought hundreds if not thousands of kids to fencing in that underprivileged area, and he has put several Olympians on the team in fencing from his program. It's just a great story.

CP: Could you tell me a little about the chaplains at the Olympic Village, because we don't really hear much about that.

Davis: Yeah, that is kind of an interesting thing. Ever since the 1972 murdering of the Jewish athletes, it has become part of the Olympic village experience to always have a chaplaincy to meet the spiritual need of whatever faith background there might be. Because when that went down in 1972, they didn't have anybody able to handle the spiritual needs of the athletes who were going through a crisis. So that is the genesis of it.

Over the years it has evolved into this building, the chaplaincy building, that houses the chaplains. There are the protestant ones, and the Catholic ones, and there is a Buddha room, and prayer room for the Muslims, and there is a prayer room for anything else that someone else might need to pray to. They have to have that. And so the most well attended services are the Protestant and Catholic services. And we have had some wonderful, wonderful services. There is one in particular where we all got together for a chapel and we had all these athletes from all the corner of the globe singing the same songs, to the same Jesus, and it gave me a little glimpse of heaven. The Bible says every tribe, every tongue, every nation will bow before King Jesus, and I thought this is a little bit like what it will be like. I had a big African athlete in his traditional garb – it was Sunday chapel so you got guys dressed up in big, flowing robes with all the colors and this cool little hat they wear. There were Asians, Europeans, and me and a few Americans and I thought, "Here we all are, all of the colors and tribes and this is what heaven will be like."

CP: Are you able to openly share your testimony with other athletes easily?

Davis: Umm, obviously I don't mind. I try to be fluid and strategic with it. I guess my philosophy is building bridges strong enough to support the weight of the truth. Building bridges strong enough to support the weight of the truth. So I love building relationships with athletes. Obviously, I can get into the Olympic Village and I am friends with these professional Olympic athletes and we have immediate rapport and I have an immediate bridge to talk about life and sport, and hopefully over time, we get to talk about the truth claims of Jesus Christ. And so whether they accept or reject the matter, the bridge is always there and they know I'm their friend no matter what. So I wouldn't call myself an in-your-face street evangelist, but everybody kind of knows where I stand. (Laughs)

CP: What is included in your swim clinics and how can people bring one to their area?

Davis: We visit over 80 cities a year, for the last six years, and so we go all over. Our website is, and people can write in and if you want some Olympians to come to your town. Obviously we do the swim clinic, but we also do church talks and school talks, civic luncheons and anything else anybody can think of while we're in town. It's really fun. Obviously our main vocation, our main program, is the swim clinic. We spend four hours teaching the kids everything we know about life and swimming. The website for that is

CP: After the Olympics we usually don't know what happens to the Olympic athletes. What usually happens to them afterwards? Do they return to normal life? Do they do swim clinics, fencing clinics? What happens to them?

Davis: It's a whole combination of things. There isn't a lot of support and money in most of the Olympic sports and the training requirements are so intense, the hours are so long that if you are lucky enough to have some sponsorship or continue with your college scholarship, you can keep training for the next Olympic. But it is a whole mix. Some people retired and move on and get their degrees; some people go into coaching the sport they were involved in; some people are able to do other things in their sports like I have, to go around and do this Olympic inspirational tour. So it's kind of half and half, half are able to survive and keep going and the other half have to retire and return to normal life.

CP: I wonder if you have contact with Michael Phelps? Have you talked to him?

Davis: Oh, I'm great friends with Michael! Yeah, we were in the 2000 team together when I was the oldest guy on the team and he was the youngest guy on the team. He was 15 and I was 28, so I was the old cap on the team and he was the young pup. And we have great respect for each other ever since. And it has been so awesome, fascinating to watch him grow up from this little 15-year-old kid in his first Olympics to the greatest Olympian of all time. It has been wonderful. He's a good friend and he's trying to do his best. We are watching history when we watch him swim, especially now when he only has a couple weeks left in his career.