SPORTS: Jennie Finch's higher standard

EDITORS’ NOTE: With Friday evening’s opening ceremonies in view, Baptist Press today begins its coverage of the Athens Olympics. BP will carry stories about Christian athletes, evangelistic efforts surrounding the Olympic games (see today’s story about the International Sports Federation) and a major True Love Waits campaign to share a worldwide witness for sexual purity.

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)--At 6-foot-1, she has a beautiful face and long blonde hair and is instantly recognizable to lots of sports fans. If you don't know Jennie Finch yet, the upcoming Olympics should change all of that.

Finch is the standout pitcher for the U.S. Olympic softball team. She throws the ball 70 miles per hour, and in college set an NCAA record by winning 60 straight games.

Her popularity is growing quickly. In a poll on ESPN's website for 2003's "hottest female athlete," Finch trounced Anna Kournikova from the world of tennis.

But while Finch may be a sex symbol to some, that's not an image she promotes. She rejected a lucrative offer to pose nude for Playboy and, instead, is more concerned with the image she conveys to her young fans.

"I don't feel that there are any pros to posing nude," Finch wrote on her website. "No amount of money could influence me. My morals and standards come first. I am here to be a role model for young girls and show them what really counts ... and that is what is on the inside."

Convictions like that spring from Finch's Christian faith.

"Yes, I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; He is my Lord and Savior," Finch wrote. "My faith has affected my career greatly. I would not be who I am today. God gave me this talent to use and He helps me daily to continue to pursue His will. He has blessed me with the great parents, great friends, awesome teammates, so many great coaches, a great strength coach and so much more."

With the allure Finch offers, corporations are hungry to enlist her as a sponsor, and will be increasingly interested in her services after the Olympics. Unlike her male counterparts on the U.S. baseball team that failed even to qualify for the Olympics, Finch plays on a team that is pursuing its third straight gold medal.

A USA Today story cited a poll by Sports Business Daily that ranked Finch second in Olympic marketability behind swimmer Michael Phelps. She already has about $400,000 of endorsements, and some experts say the Olympics could triple that figure.

But Finch isn't completely thrilled about the idea of being recognized solely because of her good looks. In fact, she's not crazy about being recognized at all.

"When you train six to seven hours a day to be the best in your sport, you don't want that to be overlooked," she said in USA Today. "I don't train for my looks. ... It's not my goal for Jennie Finch to be a household name. My goal is to win the gold medal."

In a decadent society that places so much emphasis on sex appeal, Finch's convictions are a welcome change of pace. She's more concerned with setting an example for young softball players than with making men ogle, and she deserves to be commended for holding herself to a higher standard.

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