If there was any doubt a world-class athlete could find fulfillment in the increasingly secular world of competitive sports and pursue a virtuous life, Olympian skier Rebecca Dussault could make a good case for it.
Colorado-native Dussault has traversed the world claiming championships and competing in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. She finished sixth in the Triathlon World Championships in Germany and won the 2010 Winter Triathlon World Championships, the best-ever finish for an American woman in its history. She is an eight-time U.S. National Cross Country Ski champion and top-ranked U.S. Women’s Nordic skier.
Through it all, she’s found sports nourish her faith and vocation.
“We need sports and fitness because it helps our souls be victorious over the weakness of our bodies,” said Dussault, 33, from her Gunnison home.
It’s also strengthened her vocation as wife to her husband, Sharbel, and mother to her four children.
“As much as it’s something I do, it’s amazing how it gives purpose and strength to my whole family,” she said.
Dussault will speak to young adults about her life as a champion world skier and living her Catholic faith at the next Theology on Tap lecture, set for 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at Katie Mullen’s Irish Restaurant and Pub, 1550 Court Place, in downtown Denver.
Dussault’s love for sports began when watching the Olympics as a young girl, which “moved me to my core,” she said.
When she began cross-country ski racing at 15, she was confronted with the increasingly secularized environment surrounding competitive sports. While traveling with her team, she was teased for wearing a chastity ring and ridiculed for getting married at 19. Teammates often partied and wouldn’t let her play Christian music. A coach once held a meeting in an office where pornography was visible, she said.
“Having lived in it much of the last decade and a half, I can say there’s very little Christianity in it,” Dussault said.
The temptations for vanity and pride are ripe in a world filled with freebies, she said.
“You’ve got a lot of material gifts and you look amazing,” she said. “You just live in this world of self and it leaves little room for seeking something else when you’re so self-filled.”
She credits her homeschooling days in Gunnison with fortifying her Catholic faith and giving her the strength to live her beliefs and attend Mass despite the demands of competitive skiing.
Instead of going to college, she married her childhood sweetheart and continued to pursue skiing in between “baby breaks” to have her children and focus on her family.
“It’s been such a blessing to be both,” she said. “It hasn’t made me the best ski-racer in the world, but I want to be the best mother in whole world, and that’s my first goal.”
She’s found that preparing for competitions and traveling with her family she calls her “domestic church” has helped draw them closer.
Dussault has competed in other sports and enjoys biking, running, tennis, hiking, ice climbing and kayaking, to name a few.
Sports, she said, “pull out the best in me. It makes me a determined, motivated person and it makes me see the potential in other people. When I’m competitive, I have a drive that flows over into my spiritual life.”
Competing has given her the platform to share her faith and give her the skills to pursue a holy life.
“When I’m using (my gifts) properly and fully,” she said, “I feel fulfilled and like I have a way to channel that glory back to God.”