BEIJING â€” Two weeks before leaving to compete in the Olympics, the archer Brady Ellison waded into a pool not far from the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., and was baptized in the Christian faith.
In the water with him was Kisik Lee, the head coach of the United States archery team and a Christian who has become a spiritual guide for Ellison, 19, and the larger group of athletes who train and live full time at the Olympic Training Center. He has also served as a sponsor in the baptism of three other resident archers.
During the Olympics, Lee and at least three of the five United States archers who qualified to compete in Beijing met every morning to sing hymns and read from the Bible, and to attend church together in the chapel at the Olympic Village. Lee believes having a strong faith makes for better archers because it helps quiet their minds. To that end, he tailored Ellisonâ€™s Olympic schedule to include spiritual and athletic objectives.
â€œI give him six tasks a day, including reading the Bible and education,â€ Lee said. â€œAnd heâ€™s doing it.â€
But Leeâ€™s advocacy has raised concerns in the United States Olympic Committee, and some in the elite archery community feel uncomfortable with his proselytizing. The mother of a teenage archer who lived at the center said she worried that complaining about it might jeopardize her daughterâ€™s future in the sport.
Lee said coaching was more of a challenge for him when members of the team did not share his beliefs.
â€œI donâ€™t want to have any favorites,â€ he said. â€œI would love to be fair for everyone. But sooner or later, if they can see through me God, thatâ€™s what I want to try to do. Iâ€™m not God, and I canâ€™t drive them to God, but I can pray for them.â€