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Ace Athlete Marelly Balentina Relies on God for Strength

In 2012, Marelly Daniella Monica Balentina first learned about javelin throw in her country, Curaçao. A year later, she officially broke the record for the sport in the country. Today, ten years down the line, the ace athlete and recent graduate of Regent University is envisioning competing in the Olympics for javelin throw and soccer. She represented Curacao as a national goalkeeper at the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship and thinks God will use her more for this in the future.

As for javelin throw, Marelly had an interesting introduction to the sport. The organizers of a competition she was attending for shot put in 2012 were on the lookout for javelin throw contestants. Only one girl was scheduled to compete, and they were looking for at least two more. When Marelly’s coach asked her to compete, she stated the obvious—she didn’t know what javelin throw was. “I’ve never seen it before in my life.” Undeterred, her coach explained the mechanics of the sport by drawing in the dirt. And Marelly understood.

Today, with over a decade of playing javelin throw under her belt, Marelly explains what matters. “It’s technique,” she says. “It’s the angle of release, it’s the speed that you come with, it’s how much power you can get into a throw when you walk.”

In 2014, Marelly qualified for the CARIFTA Games, an athletics competition that has produced ace athletes like Usain Bolt. Though she pushed through the competition, sickness prevented her from doing as well as she wanted and she finished at the tenth spot. So, she decided to compete again the next year, this time finishing on the fourth spot.

On Track to Succeed

Marelly’s performance at the 2015 CARFITA games was noticed by a coach at Jacksonville State University (JSU) in Jacksonvilla, Alabama. He had watched a YouTube documentary on the athlete that was created for a film festival at Rotterdam, the Netherlands. This piqued his interest and led him to follow her performance at the CARFITA Games. “I think it was just a God thing,” says Marelly because the coach told her the video happened to pop up on his screen. He offered her a full scholarship to play for Jacksonville State University. “It was prophesied upon my life that ‘you are going to a place where you don’t even have to worry about the finances, because God is a God that provides,’” says Marelly about the scholarship.

“When I came to the States in my freshman year, I ended up winning the championship at JSU.” That was followed by being able to qualify for the NCAA Division 1 track and field championships with javelin throw in her sophomore year. She qualified with a throw that broke the record at JSU.

Marelly transferred to Regent University in her junior year. During her athletic career at the university, she was able to set seven records in track and field for Regent and gained five all-American titles. 

“I want to reach the Olympic games with javelin throw and possibly also with FIFA,” says Marelly when asked about her next steps. She was able to play as a guest player on Regent University’s soccer team a few years ago and later became the goalkeeper. Marelly’s participation in soccer came to the attention of Curaçao’s football federation, who approached her to compete in FIFA. So, she competed with her national team in February 2022 against Guatemala and Saint Kitts and Nevis as the national goalkeeper in Women’s CONCACAF.

“Just Talk to God”

What has Marelly learned through her journey? She has realized that she cannot do it on her own, says Marelly. “I think God was truly speaking to me and telling me ‘you need to let me take control in order to use you to your fullest capacity.’”

Though Marelly won the championship in her freshman year, not many knew that she was diagnosed with an infection during her first month in college. It prevented her from being able to practice for months. And then she had to undergo a “very painful” surgery two months before the championships. “Coming back after not being able to practice probably for the entire year…to go to championships with my team and beat everybody, I know that that is Jesus,” says Marelly. “It couldn’t have been me because I know (that) physically I did not have the capacity to do what I did,” she adds.

Marelly felt “propelled to become more spiritually aware” at the time. She realized she had to “feed (her) spirit” to become spiritually strong. She believes God showed her that “no matter how weak you feel in your physical body, you still have the Holy Spirit inside of you and that Holy Spirit can make your body do more than you think you can possibly do.” She dug in her heels spiritually and increased the time she spent in devotions. She would talk to God.

To bolster herself mentally, she kept watching videos of Olympic javelin throwers compete. She says this has now become part of her routine.  Her first coach had once told her to “visualize (her) throw.” And that’s what she does on the track—think of her steps. “One two three, one two three four five, boom.” She trains her mind to “do what it needs to do,” which then gets translated into action.

Challenges & Hopes

Marelly talks about other challenges she has faced, such as injuries to her ankles, three F3 tornadoes hitting her previous university and dealing with lockdowns. “All these things that were happening around my journey basically showed me that I need to rely on God,” says Marelly. “I can’t do it without him, especially coming from a different country.”

Juggling all aspects of her life—sports, academics, family, an engagement—requires meticulous planning. Marelly has internalized what her father always told her: “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” At the same time, she knows that the final plans are made by the Lord. “It’s good to have plans but stay content with what God brings into your life,” says Marelly.

Part of a close-knit family, Marelly hopes that her parents and brothers can witness her graduation in person. She will be graduating from Regent University in May 2023.

Changing The World

Regent University is committed to developing Christian leadership that can impact the world in a positive way. Ask Marelly how someone changes the world and she confesses our inability to do so without God. “The only person that changed the world was Jesus and it will forever be Jesus.”

She highlights three steps to create change: acceptance, acknowledgement, and action. Acceptance that we cannot change the world, acknowledgement that we need the Holy Trinity to create change. And finally, action—acting out the love of Christ every day to ourselves and others.

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