Betty says that from about the age of eight, she knew that God had given her the ability to run fast. Born in 1938, she grew up in Sydney as World War II engulfed Australia. Her father ran a plant nursery, and Betty used to love running around barefoot between the rows of plants. ‘Even at that age, I can remember experiencing God in all that I saw around me. I’ve always loved God, His creation, the plants, the trees and the animals,’ she says. ‘Mum went to church and sent us to Sunday school. My parents always encouraged me and I had a good home life. We were always taught to respect things and other people. It’s so different today, because children are just not taught the right way.’ She explained that declining moral standards are most certainly linked to an abandonment of belief in the truth of the Bible.
Aiming for her second Olympics, Betty was at peak fitness for the 1960 games, however a torn leg muscle forced withdrawal, and became her cue to retire. Although content in retirement, Betty says a voice within told her to run again. She resisted at first, but the compulsion was overwhelming, and though she would later realize that she was not yet truly converted, she believed that God was guiding her. So at age 26, she started preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, stepping up in distance to the 400 metres. ‘I didn’t win any of the heats or the semi-final, but on the day of the final I was lying on a bench before the race. When we were called for the start, it was as if some force got me up from the bench. Amazingly, I had no nerves and I wasn’t worried at all. During the race, the wind was quite tricky and the other competitors were running very strongly, yet I was still very calm. I knew I had to do it; I knew I would win.’
It was this race that Betty describes as her ‘perfect race’. She says that because ‘the fourth gold medal made my career more indelible in people’s minds’, it was part of God’s plan to give her greater opportunity to witness for Christ.
However, it was only years later, after she had developed the debilitating disease multiple sclerosis, that she could see this plan unfold. ‘I was encouraged to go to a particular church where someone said, “they’ll heal you”. Well, I wasn’t healed but I met the Healer.’ At age 47, Betty was ‘born again’ by receiving Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. She says, ‘My life has never been the same since. My salvation was a free gift. I didn’t have to work for it and it’s better than any gold medal that I’ve ever won. Before then, I’m ashamed to say, I was frightened to tell people of my belief in God.’
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