Romans 5:4-5 says: “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Olympic cyclist Dotsie Bausch knows these words well.
“My mom must have sent this to me a thousand times,” Bausch said via email from Spain, where she is training for the Olympics.
Having overcome an eating disorder and drug addiction, Bausch knows suffering and the power of hope, and as she prepares to compete in the women’s team pursuit cycling event at the London 2012 Olympics, she owes it all to God.
“He has had His hand in (my life) the whole time,” she said. “It’s me who took way too much time to realize His strength, sovereignty, love and grace and the powerful effect He would have in my life. I turned away from Him in my 20s and started asking questions, which ultimately led me back to Him, so I do encourage those who are still searching to ask questions.”
Suffering with anorexia and bulimia decimated Bausch’s 5-foot-9 frame. After graduating from Villanova University, she moved to New York and began working as a model, and her sickness grew worse until she weighed less than 100 pounds and lost the will to live.
“Knowing that I was hurting my parents so deeply initially made me seek help. I saw their pain and it was too much. I eventually wanted to heal for myself, but that took some time,” she said.
Bausch’s parents, Paul and Margie Cowden, are members of Southeast Christian Church and credit prayer with saving their daughter’s life.
“I truly believe Dotsie is where she is today because of Jesus Christ,” Margie Cowden said.
Overcoming anorexia involved intense therapy.
“I found a therapist that I believe was an angel/is an angel,” Bausch said. “Eating disorders are very embarrassing, highly emotional and very scary to navigate through, and I had to find someone who I felt was not going to judge me, but help me.”
People with eating disorders often over-exercise, so when Bausch began her therapy, her therapist would not let her exercise. After making some progress in her condition, her therapist said she could exercise, but it had to be something she didn’t do when she was battling anorexia. That’s where cycling came in.
Now a seven-time U.S. National Champion and a two-time Pan Am Championships gold medal winner, Bausch, 39, began cycling at age 26. She’ll ride in her first Olympic race on Friday, Aug. 3.
“Multiple scenarios, hardships and windy roads led to this Games of the 30th Olympiad for me … God wants me here doing this right now,” Bausch said. “This is my calling right now. This is how I will shine my light for those suffering from eating disorders and hopefully for people who just need some light and I can share God with them. I believe that’s why God has made me a gifted cyclist. But you know what? If I have learned anything about God, it’s that the second I try and guess what He's up to, He surprises me every single time. So I will wait on Him and see what He has in store.”
Bausch is a graduate of Ballard High School and attended Southeast as a teenager. She currently lives in Irvine, Calif., with her husband, Kirk Bausch.
Bausch’s parents, who are flying with their other daughter and son-in-law to London to watch Bausch race, never thought they’d have an Olympian in the family.
“It’s really exciting,” Paul Cowden said. “Going to the Olympics is great, but the platform that this has allowed her to have to help others dovetails into her faith.”
“I’m proud of the work and the effort she has put into it because there’s a tremendous amount of training,” Margie Cowden added. “When she has a goal, she has always accomplished her goal. Dotsie pretty much wrecked her body, and she has come back. Her body is in great shape.”
Bausch uses her experiences to mentor others fighting eating disorders. Her message: There’s hope.
There’s also hope for those struggling in their faith.
“Don't believe everything you hear from what people say,” she said. “Try it out for yourself. Study and read the Word of God because then it becomes authentic within you and that power never leaves you again.”
Women’s team pursuit is a 3-kilometer race with two groups of three riders racing 12 times around a steeply banked oval track. A race lasts a little more than 3 minutes. Ten countries are competing in the London event.
“You spend so many years preparing that you don't think much about the final destination, but now the destination is almost here,” Bausch said. “I am sure there will be surreal moments. I hope I am able to soak it all in and find joy in the process. It is absolutely incredible to think of having my whole family in that velodrome cheering for me.”
Bausch attends Mariners Church in California, and the women from her Bible study group sent her away with Bible verses laminated on index cards and held together with a carabiner. She holds them dear.
“I read them every day and have some memorized and will be reading them over and over before I go to the start line,” she said. “The other thing I have been doing is praying for myself. I never really prayed much for myself in the past because I always felt guilty like there is so much suffering in the world and do I really need to be asking for ‘good legs’ on a training day? But again, here I am learning about God’s way throughout this Olympic journey. He wants me to come to Him with everything, and so I have been praying for myself this last month and it’s been liberating and empowering.”