The Bible’s book of Proverbs says that “humility comes before honor.” Moorpark’s Amanda Longan, back-up goalie for the gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s Olympic water polo team, chose a path of humility and found herself elevated to an international platform, helping the team win Olympic gold in Tokyo this summer.
“Winning gold was the experience of a lifetime,” says the local 24-year-old, who played water polo for Oaks Christian High School and USC. “It’s a peak so very few get to reach, and I’m still not sure I have fully fathomed what our team just accomplished. Representing the United States is a tremendous honor. To serve as a representative of everything great that I think our country stands for is so very special. And to come from the small town of Moorpark that has supported my journey from the beginning and just been such a joyous place to live is heartwarming.”
While Longan’s goal is to become the starting goalie, in her team’s first four games in Tokyo, she sat without playing, and for two of those games, she didn’t even suit up. Longan plays second to Ashleigh Johnson, who was a two-time Olympian and repeat world champion going into the 2021 Games.
Longan’s uncommon selflessness while on the bench and in the stands came from discovering her identity in Christ, she says. She experienced a spiritual renewal in 2020 when her team should have been playing in the Tokyo Olympics. That’s when she reconnected to her faith in God. She also brought her newfound joy to teammates, inviting them to start a weekly Bible study with her in September 2020.
“I texted a few other girls,” she says, “and I was like, call me crazy, but would you be into this?”
Five water polo players — more than a quarter of the girls vying for a spot on the Olympic roster — began meeting. The group read books together, watched Bible-related series, and bonded because of the deeper conversations that arise from sharing a common faith.
“It’s helped me stay grounded so much,” Longan says of the Bible study. “I can tell it one hundred percent has helped impact my happiness, my looseness, my connection with others, and it helped me to perform better as a whole. It’s totally related, and I know it is.”
Peace also replaced an unhealthy competitiveness.
“I was getting so caught up in comparing how I was doing to how other people were doing, and I just wanted to play more free,” she says. “I needed to know that I am more than just a water polo player, and I think being grounded in my faith and knowing that God loves me no matter how I perform really helped me make strides this year.”
Strides in her character and then strides in the pool.
Longan’s golden opportunity came in the women’s quarterfinal game against Canada. She started the fourth quarter and defended the goal from three of the five shots taken against her, helping to secure the 16-5 U.S. victory.
Her team advanced to the gold medal Olympic round against Spain, in which Longan spent the majority of the time cheering on her teammates from the sideline while they put up a considerable lead against their opponent. Then, with under three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Longan was subbed in and played the rest of the game, blocking one of two shots on goal and helping her team clinch the 15-4 victory.
Humility turned to honor as she earned her first Olympic medal.
Longan says she couldn’t be more proud to represent America in the Games and has her sights set on becoming the starting keeper for the U.S. in the 2024 Olympics.
“I bleed red, white and blue, and I always will,” she says. “I want people to know that I am truly proud to be here representing the USA. … I believe in asking what you can do for your country, and not what your country can do for you, but how can we as a country, the citizens, the people that make it work daily, how can we better ourselves? I truly believe that we can and will continue to do that. … I hope that I can be a reflection of those things here. … I will wear this flag till the day I die.”