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LDS Olympians entertain and entertained

Korean fireside gives athletes opportunity to share testimonies

Eight LDS athletes participating in the Olympic Games entertained more than 200 young Mormon adults at a fireside here Sept. 24, and were entertained themselves by musical acts performed by Korean members of the Church.

The athletes included Bo Gustafsson of Sweden, the silver medalist in the 50-kilometer race-walk in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics; Karl Tilleman, a basketball player for Canada; Mark Fuller, a Greco-Roman wrestler from the United States; Tualau Fale and Filipo Palako Vaka, boxers from Tonga; and U.S. runners Ed Eyestone (marathon), Henry Marsh (steeplechase) and Doug Padilla (5,000 meters).The meeting was held at the midpoint of the Olympics. Missionaries from the Korea Seoul West Mission transferred the Olympians from the Olympic Village to the meetinghouse across town, where the cultural hall was filled to capacity.

After several musical numbers were performed, including a congregational singing of "Hand in Hand," the official Olympic song, six of the Olympic athletes - as many as time would permit - spoke briefly, delivering inspirational messages.

"I wouldn't miss this fireside tonight for anything," said Tilleman, whose Canadian team had just finished qualifying for the eight-team medal round, "because it gives me the opportunity to be able to tell you that I know that God lives."

Tilleman said that faith in themselves, and in God, was what helped the Canadian players overcome difficult odds and make it into the medal round. "I counsel with the Lord in all my doings," he said. "Not that we might win, but that we can play to the best of our ability; and, most importantly, that I might glorify the Lord through what I do."

Gustafson, a three-time Olympian, explained his sport to the congregation. "It is very easy," he said. "Just walk as fast as possible.

"In sports you have goals and in life you have goals," he said. "The preparation is what's important in both. I think we all have one special goal in our lives, to come back to our Heavenly Father. It is up to us to handle our own preparation."

Fuller emphasized the importance of the Word of Wisdom in an athlete's life. "I'm sure we all agree that it's played a big role in helping us train and prepare for the Olympics," he said.

Eyestone told a story of falling unconscious in a race just when he was about to accomplish his goal. "Many times we set goals, and work hard to accomplish the goals, and sometimes we fail," he said. "But if we know we have run like a horse - that we ran until we collapsed - we should not feel bad. I think that's what our Heavenly Father wants of us. To give it our best effort."

Fale, a heavyweight boxer, said he was thankful for the opportunity to talk to such a large gathering of saints.

Marsh's remarks emphasized the importance of missionary work - no doubt a comforting message to the dozens of missionaries, from both the Seoul West and Seoul missions, in the congregation.

"If I hadn't gone on a mission I'd have never been in the Olympics," he said. "When you put the Lord first in your life, He will help you in the other areas of your life."

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