It was the early 1980s, at the height of totalitarian communist rule in Czechoslovakia, and Joe Dial hid a Bible in the end of his pole vaulting bag.
The now Oral Roberts track coach was an Oklahoma State student athlete back then. He was behind the Iron Curtain as part of the missionary group Athletes in Action. After competition in area track meets, Dial and others would meet with underground churches to inspire a population he said “had zero hope.”
Among them was a Russian pole vaulter named Igor Trandenkov. The Bible in Dial’s bag just so happened to be translated into Trandenkov’s native tounge. So, Dial offered it up as a gift.
Trandenkov would go on to win Olympic silver medals for pole vault in 1992 and 1996.
“I had met him years later and he said he still had the bible, that he reads it now and he’s become a Christian,” Dial said. “I just thought that was incredible.”
On Monday, Dial will be inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame for a laundry list of athletic achievements — the American pole vault record holder for nine years (1985-94), a bronze medal at the 1989 World Championships, four NCAA championships and more.
“I was pretty much raised and lived here my whole life,” Dial said. “So it’s a huge honor.”
But that donated bible and countless other faith-driven examples of leadership have also come to define Marlow native.
“It’s funny I’m at ORU now,” Dial said. “That’s pretty much what the whole school is about, mission work … Everywhere I’ve been, being a Christian has been a big part of it. I can freely talk to my athletes about it.”
Last summer, Dial and his wife, Shawna, traveled to Paraguay for a summer track clinic at an orphanage. With donated equipment, they taught aspiring athletes the basics like jumping hurdles and coming out of blocks.
“I can’t change the whole world, just my little part of it,” Dial said. “I can try to do as good as I can.”