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Ski Team for Christ

Rebecca Dussault would like be in Vancouver this week for her second Olympic cross-country skiing competition, but she isn’t hanging her head on the sidelines after failing to make the U.S. team. She and her husband, Sharbel, have always put God first in their lives and take both victory and defeat as opportunities to grow in their Catholic faith and share it with others.

Sharbel and Rebecca Dussault with their son Tabor

Sharbel and Rebecca Dussault with their son Tabor

“Sports for me is on a list of priorities, and nowhere near the top,” said Rebecca, the mother of two boys, Tabor (8) and Simeon (3). “I have to consider everything I am, which means I am a wife and mother first. Anything I can do in skiing is a plus.”

Her husband said that her training for the Games was interrupted by his severe case of intestinal colitis that required three surgeries over the course of two years. “My being sick affected the whole family, especially Rebecca, since she had to do so much more when I was out,” he said. “After I was fully recovered, she was able to concentrate on training for the past year. The result was not the same as before, but we’re OK with that. We thank God for the opportunity.”

The two grew up together in Gunnison, Colorado, where their families shared a strong faith and Rebecca’s mother homeschooled both of them. They married when they were both 19 years of age.

“We were kind of boyfriend-girlfriend when we were 12 and 13, and we knew we liked each other,” Sharbel recalled. “The relationship grew and we knew at quite a young age that we were going to get married and be together forever.”

At age 19, Rebecca was the nation’s leading cross-country skier, yet she gave up the sport soon after the wedding. “It was a tough, tough decision,” she said. She decided at the time that she could not balance marriage with the rigors of world-class skiing.

After giving birth to her first son, however, she began skiing again to get in shape, and won a race against top competitors, much to her surprise.

“It kind of hit me that she had this great God-given gift and talent,” Sharbel explained. “So we agreed that maybe this was God’s will, and started thinking about making a run for the 2006 Olympics.”

Although she didn’t win a medal, the Olympic spotlight shone on Rebecca in the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy. She was an American skiing darling who spoke openly about her faith and wrote the name of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati on her skis. She had adopted Frassati, an athletic young man who was born in Torino and died of polio in 1925, as the patron of her Olympic efforts that year. She also attracted media attention with her storybook life – married to her childhood sweetheart, with a little child cheering her from the sidelines.

Rebecca recalled, “The 2006 Olympics to me became so much about Blessed Frassati. I knew he needed one more miracle to move on to sainthood, so I thought if he teams up with me, it will be the miracle he needs if I make the team! The result was really quite the opposite. I was the one who was teamed up with him. All that I accomplished was really not about me, it was all about spreading the message of Blessed Frassati.”

On their website, the Dussaults have a picture of Frassati on skis. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II as a model for youth, calling him the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes.” There are many Frassati societies throughout the world for young people who want to live according to the spirit of the young Italian who was known for his Catholic action and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Virgin Mary.
 
Right now Rebecca is nearing the end of a long competitive season that recently took her to Norway, where she won the gold medal at World Winter Triathlon championships. In the spring she plans to hang up her skis.

“It’s hard to be both a mother and a competitor,” she explained. “I do plan to retire, but I’ve said that before and God led me back. I’m open to what the Lord says.”

Learn more at the Dussaults website, www.dussaultskis.com.