UA Athlete Rededicates Himself to His Faith, Finds Peace in, Beyond Pool
By David Miller
When University of Alabama swimmer Christopher Reid returned from the 2016 Olympic Games, he struggled with the disappointment of not medaling for his native South Africa.
Reid swam the 400-meter medley relay and finished 10th in the 100-meter backstroke at Rio.
“I’d done well, but it wasn’t good enough for me,” Reid said. “It was a very hard time for me.”
Swimming was Reid’s identity, and if his final race in Rio had been his last in the pool, he would have been “miserable.” Though he loves the regimented training and discipline required to swim competitively, he realized that, in order to achieve his goals as an Olympic athlete and grow as an individual, he had to put his identity in something far greater than himself: God.
Reid became a dedicated Christian shortly after returning from Rio and has used faith to eliminate distractions, not just to become a better swimmer, but to become a better person.
Saturday, Reid will earn a degree in finance and economics. After commencement, he’ll begin pursuing a life in ministry, where he’s eager to share the same support and foster the same relationships that steered him to Christ.
He credits friends, teammates and his church family for influencing and strengthening his faith.
“I’m a huge believer that God puts people in your life when you need them,” Reid said. “I grew up as a Christian, but the people who were in my life when I came back [from Rio] … a life of faith was something I was seeking, and to represent God in my day. It was my friends and teammates, and I started seeing how they were living. My best friend at the time, she and her family had a big impact on me. It was the fruits of the spirits of other people that drew me to God, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Reid admits that, by nature, it’s difficult to achieve consistency in all things, particularly when trying to be an example for others. Anything outside of the rigidity of his daily schedule of worship, studying, working and training brings “some level of chaos.”
“I probably spend six hours a day enveloped in my sport,” Reid said, “but four of that is actual training, which doesn’t include getting enough sleep, eating right and dedicating time to the transition elements, which all add up to have the biggest impact on your performance.”
For Reid, the idiom “God is in the details,” is applicable across all aspects of his life. Shortly after returning from Rio, he took inventory of his habits and how he spent his time. He discovered that he spent too much time on social media, and while he still maintains a Facebook page and Instagram account, he checks each account just once per week.
“I love being in the loop, but did I need [social media]?” Reid said. “When I gave it up, after a while, I realized I wasn’t giving up anything.
“Giving up social media, I have a lot more time to get into the truth and what is real. We can fall into the trap of the false reality of what people spread on social media, and giving it up has helped me have more genuine interests in people’s lives.”
Reid has reaped the rewards of his focus as he trains toward his goal of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Reid recently won two gold medals at the U.S. Winter Nationals in North Carolina.
“Swimming, now, is something I do for fun,” Reid said. “It’s not a job, or something I’m compelled to do.
“I’m just really thankful for all the valuable and hard-working people I’ve come in contact with who helped me get here. People whom I’ve come in contact with, I truly love and appreciate everything they’ve done for me.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.