Forward in Faith

Three-time Olympian says life’s about more than medals

Forward in Faith

Three-time Olympian says life’s about more than medals

On Feb. 17, 1998, in a small town just a few miles south of the Canadian border, 10-year-old Gigi Marvin sat wide-eyed in front of the television and watched history unfold. Thousands of miles away, in Nagano, Japan, the United States defeated Canada, 3-1, to win the gold medal in the first women’s hockey tournament held at the Winter Olympics. As the U.S. women’s team celebrated, girls and women around the world did too. Amazed at what she was witnessing, Gigi knew right then what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

Early Life on the Ice

A native of Warroad, Minnesota—better known as Hockeytown, U.S.A.—Gigi grew up with her younger brother in a family passionate about hockey. Her mother spent countless hours figure skating; her father played and coached hockey; and her grandfather, also a hockey player, coached the 1958 U.S. National Team and was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Life on the ice was an all-day, everyday affair for Gigi. 

“I was 2 years old when I first started skating,” she said. “Most of my life, most of my time revolved around that, and I fell in love with it.” 

As Gigi became more comfortable and confident on the ice, her talent rapidly unfolded.

She played five years of high school hockey for her hometown Warroad Warriors, where she finished her career ranked 5th in Minnesota state scoring with 425 points (196 goals, 229 assists). She did all of this while never neglecting to meet her friends to play for fun at the rink, often staying past closing time and shutting the rink down herself.

Because of her success in high school, Gigi was awarded a scholarship to play at the University of Minnesota, where her life and walk with the Lord radically changed. 

‘It’s Not About Performance’

On her first day at the Minnesota campus, Gigi got an invitation to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Huddle. She’d known of FCA from high school and was excited to attend, but she had no clue the revelation she was about to have.

Although Gigi dedicated her life to Christ at a young age and grew up in a family where church and Scripture reading were prioritized, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was foreign to her.

While at the FCA Huddle, an older student-athlete befriended Gigi and began to mentor and disciple her. 

“She really helped bring home the truth that [God’s acceptance] is not about performance,” Gigi said. “It’s not about what you do. It’s not about what you accomplish. It’s not about external things. It’s about what Jesus did. It’s about what He did for us on the cross, and it’s about Him wanting to have a personal relationship with us.”

Gigi continued in FCA by becoming part of the leadership team for her final three years at the University of Minnesota, all while finishing sixth on the Division I hockey program’s all-time scoring list.

Dream Becomes Reality

As college came to an end, her childhood dream to make it to the Olympics only grew stronger. 

After graduation in 2009, Gigi continued to go to the rinks to hone her skills for the Olympic tryouts, and the all-day, everyday skating continued.

“I’ve been cut from rosters, and it’s not enjoyable at all,” she said. “When you train for the Olympics, there’s always that threat of getting cut.”

However, after years of determination and practice, Gigi found herself on her first Olympic roster.

She competed as a member of Team U.S.A. at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, winning the silver medal. Then in 2014, she made the roster again and competed at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, winning another silver medal. 

But after the 2014 Games, the hockey forward took a year off from the ice and enrolled in a discipleship training school to grow closer to God and learn more about discipleship—the very thing that changed her life as a college freshman. Upon her return to the ice in 2015, she signed a contract to play for the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).

Throughout her time in the NWHL, Gigi continued to excel as a player, winning the 2016 NWHL Defensive Player of the Year Award and being selected in a fan vote for the 2017 All-Star Game. As her NWHL days drew to a close, she went for her final Olympic run and made the 2018 roster to compete at the PyeongChang Olympic Games in South Korea as the oldest player on the team. 

And almost 20 years to the date that 10-year-old Gigi watched the inaugural women’s hockey Olympic championship game, the 30-year-old helped her team defeat Canada, 3-2, for Team U.S.A.’s second gold medal in hockey after a dramatic shootout in which she was the first shooter to score.

A New Season

With the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China, scheduled to start Feb. 4, Gigi isn’t concerned about competing anymore. In December, she laid down her skates, competitively at least, and retired from the sport.

Although Gigi reached what many would consider to be the pinnacle of success, all her medals pale in comparison to what she views as something of much greater value—an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

“I remember when I was a freshman having a clear revelation that I did not come to the University of Minnesota for hockey,” she said. “I came to grow in my relationship with Christ and to share the Gospel. I still feel that way. …

“There’s nothing more important than my relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said. “Whether I have an Olympic gold medal or not, it doesn’t make me more valuable than the person next to me because we’re all loved in God’s eyes and we’re all the same value and worth to Him.”

As Gigi transitions from full-time hockey player to a hockey broadcaster and analyst, in addition to running RinkRat 19, a hockey school she established in 2008, her mission remains the same.

“Everywhere we go, we’re meant to love the Lord and then share that with others. It just so happens my area and my niche is the hockey world, so that’s my mission field. …

“I just want people to know the depth of the love that Christ has for us,” she said. “It is so beyond our scope, but there’s no need to strive or work or clean ourselves up to receive His love. He loves us just how we are right now. It’s not about what we do. It’s not about what we don’t do. It’s about what He did on the cross. End of story.”

Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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