This post a bit off of my usual beaten path, but I have been meaning to do this one for a while now. For those of you that didn’t know this about me, I’m a HUGE Olympics fanatic. Let’s just say that I probably missed, literally, about three hours of live coverage due to passing out. I got this obsession from my mom (thanks, Mom!). From the opening ceremonies to those that concluded them, there is just something that just draws me to them. These Olympic Games were probably the most memorable for me because of the impact it had on me, not just because they have just ended. Why did it leave such an impression on me? Well, Readers, it was because of the shift that, in my opinion, these Games have taken over many others Summer Games in the past. What’s this shift am I talking about? For me, it is the way that women have become more of a focus during these two weeks of competition than they have before: from their triumphs to their disappointments, and everything in between, I was captivated and moved by what these women have done.
The first stories that caught my attention was those of Aya Medany, a modern pentathlon competitor from Egypt, and Wodjan Shaherkan, a judo competitor from Saudi Arabia. What caught my attention to these woman and her stories? It was the hurdles they both had to face where they had to choose between their faith and customs versus the love of their sport. They each had to confront their respective governing sport authorities in order to request the right to abide by the customs of their Muslim faith and to cover themselves appropriately. Medany wanted to wear a swimsuit that fully covered her body, and Shaherkan wanted to wear a headscarf as a part of her uniform. Medany was denied her request, while Shaherkan was granted hers. Medany, after a lot of deliberation, decided to compete, abiding by the ruling handed down to her. She was a medal hope for her country, but she placed 16th in her event. Shaherkan was one of the first women from her country permitted to compete at the Olympics. Her match was short, and she was defeated easily, but Shaherkan competing was victory enough. I was so proud of both of them. Their stories made me more aware of women in their position. It made me think how hard it would be if I was having to juggle my faith with my love of my sport, then to have to also deal with the media, as well as the views and opinions of those who didn’t agree with them competing as they did. I wasn’t sure what would have done in their position. Maybe this will also make these athletic governing bodies see that more women would be able to compete at the Olympics if some concessions, or agreements were made so having to choose between their faith and their sport wouldn’t have to be such a hardship. I know, there is also the question of how fair it would be to those who didn’t have to make this choice, but it would be great to see even more countries represented at the Games. Maybe this is a stepping stone in order to see this happen.
Now, I’m moving on to the story where the Olympics were not so kind to the competitors, but were able to move me. The story that I had to mention has to be that of Canada’s Paula Findlay. Her Olympics started off with a lot of promise, coming into these Games as one of the favourites in the Women’s Triathlon, but instead, they ended in sorrow. After the first of three events making up the triathlon, Findlay was at the back of the pack, suffering from a recurring injury. It was during the running portion of the event where Findlay was ready to throw in the towel. Her doctor on the course advised her to push on and finish the race because she would feel better about herself if she did. Findlay took his advice, and did finish. I watched as she as she crossed the finish line covered with dirt and her tears. She was also apologizing to her family, her coaches, and to Canada for her performance. I literally had tears in my eyes at this moment. I didn’t want her to feel bad for what she had just accomplished. I was upset because she was upset with herself, when I was proud of her for finishing the event, ready to yell at any of the commentators who would dare say any negative about her. Findlay exemplified the other side of the Olympic spirit, never giving up. It was good to see.
Now on to an inspiring story of triumph at these Games. For me, it was of Mariana Pajon of Colombia. She competed in the Women’s BMX Biking. Since I was unfamiliar with the world of BMX biking, I just chose to root for Pajon. She just seemed so happy to be there. I’m glad I did. From the semifinal heats to the finals, she dominated every race. Pajon leaped out of the starting gates ahead of her competitors and never looked back. As she crosseed the finish line of the gold medal race, she didn’t even look tired! It was as though she had even more in her tank to race some more. Pajon was elated after wining the gold medal. I was jumping off my couch, cheering for her. It was her country’s second medal ever at the Summer games. It was great to see someone who has been training so hard, biking since the age of three, achieve their Olympic dream. Congrats Mariana!
So, Readers, this is how these Olympic Games inspired me. The experiences these women had, win or loose, forced me to think of what I would do in their position. They brought back memories of my love of sports. They also pushed me to focus on being more driven on achieving my goals for my future. These ladies also made me want to cheer and cry for complete strangers that I would have never known about if I hadn’t watched the Games, and encouraged me want to learn more about their stories behind making it to the Olympics. Finally, these women made these Olympic Games even more memorable than just the highlights and scandals the networks featured over and over again. Thank you, ladies, for making the 2012 Olympic Games one of the most memorable and inspiring I have ever followed.
Below are some links you can go to look into these stories and to find out a bit more about these ladies:
http://deadspin.com/5923761/olympics-field-guide-aya-medany-the-only-olympic-athlete-in-a-hijab (Aya Medany)
http://www.thenewstribe.com/2012/08/01/saudi-judo-athlete-gets-a-green-signal/#.UDzXKqAoorc (Wodjan Shaherkan )
http://www.thestar.com/sports/london2012/triathlon/article/1237109–london-2012-canada-s-paula-findlay-struggles-through-injury-in-triathlon-finishes-last (Paula Findlay)
http://sports.yahoo.com/news/pajon-wins-gold-oquendo-wins-045942405–oly.html (Mariana Pajon)
Until my next post, Readers!