Church Rooting for its Olympic Canoeist
A church will be rooting for its Olympian this Sunday
All eyes at Warrington Baptist Church will be glued to the big screen at 2.24pm when its long-time member Johny Akinyemi performs in the slalom canoe event.
The 23-year-old, who is representing Nigeria, the country of his grandfather's birth, grew up Warrington and there are members of the church who remember bouncing him on their knee in his early years.
He has become a popular and inspiring member - and the congregation will following his every move come race-time this weekend.
'Johny is a down-to-earth, infectious guy who is completely fixed on God,' said minister the Revd Simon Schofield.
'He has such a mature faith and it is an example for everyone. He is very focused on his sport, but his faith is the overriding thing.
'We've tried to support him in prayer and with his equipment. The Sunday he went away we all prayed for him, and on Sunday there will be a lot of us following him.'
Johny is Nigeria's first Olympic slalom canoeist. To qualify he had to beat Benjamin Boukpeti, the Togo Olympic bronze medallist from 2008, in a one-off race.
In several interviews he has explained how his faith helped him.
'A lot of people back in Nigeria, and in Warrington, were praying for me,' he told the BBC.
'After the semi-final, where I came fourth, I was disappointed and the nerves were setting in. I took a step back, read some of the Bible - Psalms 18 - and I felt people's prayers giving me strength and peace on the start line.'
Sunday in Warrington will begin with a family service, said Simon - and will be followed by a mini-Olympics in the park opposite the church.
'There will be an Olympic theme at the service, and after that we'll head to the park and have, in effect, a sports day.
'When that's finished we'll head back to the church for a cup of tea and to watch Johny. We really hope it goes as well as possible for him.'
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