Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

'The right decision' - Athlete honored for living with integrity

Olympic gold medalist prospers despite trials
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2012

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For many athletes, success doesn't get much better than winning an Olympic gold medal. However, biathlete Antje Misersky Harvey was recently inducted into the German Sports Hall of Fame in addition to her previous gold medal achievements.

Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Antje Harvey, an Olympic biathlete and gold medalist, has been a member of the Church for almost ten years. As a German native, she made an early decision to do what is right.

A resident of Heber City, Utah, and a German native, Sister Harvey traveled to Berlin with her family to receive the award on May 25. Held at the historic hotel, the Adlon, Sister Harvey was joined in the Hall of Fame award by her father, Henrich Misersky, and two other athletes who not only excelled in athleticism, but who each triumphed over some test of character within their sport.

Sister Harvey's trial came as a youth during the Cold War when Germany was divided between the democratic West and communistic East. Though she is known for competing in biathlon during the 1992 Olympics, Sister Harvey found her first passion and talent in cross-country skiing. At 16 years old she made it to the Junior World Championships on Germany's national team, where she did very well. But for the controlling government of East Germany, it wasn't good enough.

To improve performance, she and her teammates were ordered by the team training coaches each night to take a small pill, which she knew to be a steroid. She was aware of the effects that such a drug could have on her body and that taking the pill would be cheating the sport. It was wrong, so she refused to comply. Because taking the drug was required to be on the team, she had to quit.

Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Antje Harvey holds her four Olympic medals: one gold and two silver medals from the 1992 games and one silver from 1994.

"Antje is a person who always does the right thing even if it's not popular or especially if it's not comfortable," said her husband, Ian.

It was a hard choice for her to make, but she never regretted it. "The inner peace I feel because of not taking steroids is priceless," Sister Harvey said. "Even when I thought that my big dreams were shattered as a 17-year-old, I could look in the mirror and know deep inside that I made the right decision."

Both she and her family were somewhat targeted for standing up to the government. She didn't know if she would ever compete again. It wasn't until 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, that she was given a second chance — she began training again but this time in the sport of biathlon. In the 1992 Olympic Games she won the gold medal in the 15 km race and two silver medals in other biathlon events. But this wasn't the only blessing that came from her integrity.

Through racing biathlon, she met Ian Harvey, a biathlete from the U.S. The two became good friends. They married in 1993 and later moved to Utah. Though it was the mountains that drew the couple to the Beehive State, the people and the newfound knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ made them stay.

As residents of Heber, the Harveys noticed something different about the lifestyles of their neighbors.

"We became aware of just some people who were consciously trying to live their religion," Brother Harvey said. "That's probably the one thing that opened our eyes."

Brother and Sister Harvey were both atheists who found religion to be somewhat hollow. It was the example of several people that changed their minds.

After their second child was born, Sister Harvey struggled with hyperthyroidism. During her struggle she was touched by the testimony of an understanding neighbor about the atonement of Jesus Christ.

"She said, 'I wish that you could get your burdens and your feelings off of your shoulders and give them to Him; He suffered all of that,'" Sister Harvey said. "It really made an impression on me." Though the Harveys were especially touched by their encounters, they were slightly bothered by the fact that they didn't understand something so essential to the lives of such good friends.

"I thought we were great friends and I didn't understand the most fundamental thing about them," Brother Harvey said.

So they decided to learn more.

The Harveys began taking the missionary discussions and reading the Book of Mormon on a daily basis. Neither had the intention of actually joining a new religion but both could feel the truth of what they were learning.

Photo courtesy Ian Harvey
Antje Harvey sits with her husband, Ian, and daughters Hazel and Pearl during the German Sports Hall of Fame dinner held in Berlin on May 25. During the ceremony, she was honored for her integrity in taking a stance against athletic doping.

"We just both individually felt that what we were reading was from a higher source," Sister Harvey said. "By reading the Book of Mormon we gained our own witness."

Though neither was familiar with living a religious lifestyle, both Brother and Sister Harvey were more than willing to obey the commandments and principles of the gospel. As they began to do so, their understanding of their friends and love for the gospel began to grow.

"You just have a totally different perspective on life," Sister Harvey said. "When you know God's plan, things feel different in every perspective."

Having been baptized now for almost 10 years, Sister Harvey looks back on the decision she made so long ago. Though the decision she faced was tough, it is for the company of her family that Sister Harvey feels most grateful. Induction into the Hall of Fame is just icing on the cake, she said.

"I already feel like I'm rewarded," Sister Harvey declared. "I have healthy kids and I got another chance and I met [Ian] through having another chance… . Things turned out better but at the time I didn't know how it would turn out and that I would be so blessed."

Hosted by the company Sporthilfe, an organization in support of German athletes, the Hall of Fame ceremony included dinner, speeches and the induction of each athlete followed by entertainment and interviews. It was a "festive, high-end night, Hollywood style," Sister Harvey said.

It was also nice to be back home and to have the opportunity for the family to visit, she added. "It was very emotional at times, but for my kids to see and get a better feel of how I grew up was priceless."