From Rags to Olympics- the remarkable story of these female Olympic AthletesSanjana Ray
The Rio Olympics are a must-watch, not just to witness the best across the world competing for the gold, but also to be inspired by the determination of the strong, confident female Athletes be absolute rockstars. Their independent accounts of how they battled against all odds and the respective country’s finest to reach the platform of the Olympics, is a motivation to young, passionate and excited female athletes world-wide, who will take from their example and make history, when it’s their time to shine.
It was only in the 1900 Summer Olympics at Paris, where the Olympic Gates were opened to women for the first time. Since then, the Games have come a long way with some of the most revered Olympic Athletes being women. However, their journey has been fraught with complexities aimed from the world of men and even today, female athletes have to undergo subtle spells of sexist tendencies towards them.
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But they refuse to be deterred by the challenges that are being thrown out to them and focus instead on, quite simply, on heralding in a new revolution for all female athletes wishing to make it big in the Sports World.
To this end, we’d like to relegate some of the most inspiring stories of female Olympic Athletes who went from starting with nothing to strutting through the gates of the Olympics. Their determination, hard-work and commitment to their sport and passion is what made them long-jump over all the metaphoric hurdles in their path and reach their goals, turning their dreams into reality.
Lori Susan Jones, famously known as ‘Lolo Jones’ is an American Athlete whose area covers track, field and bobsled with a speciality in 60m and 100m. She has been representing America since her advent into the Olympics, with the 2008 Beijing Olympics seeming to tilt in her favour in the 100m race. However, she tripped on a penultimate hurdle in the last-minute and finished in seventh. Instead of being weighed down by this, Jones took all the hard-lined lessons that she had learned from her difficult childhood and focused instead on becoming even bigger and better at her game. And she did, winning silver at the 2008 World Athletics Final, becoming an American record-holder in the 60m hurdles at a time of 7.72.
“I grew up quite poor but, I mean, as a kid you don’t realize you’re living in poverty. My mom was trying to do by any means necessary to make sure that we have what we needed. I definitely do not think I’d be going for this dream had I not seen her pick herself up so many times and keep fighting for us. I think that’s why I keep fighting,” she said- in an interview with ‘Yahoo! News’.
Afghanistan’s first female boxer- Sadaf Rahimi, started boxing at the young age of fourteen after watching her idol, Laila Ali box in a competition. Despite the more general orthodox outlook on women’s lifestyle under the Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan, Rahimi’s family defied norms and extended their support to their daughter’s unique passion- allowing her to be trained under the watchful eye of coach Saber Sharifi, a former professional boxer. Breaking gender-stereotypes, Rahimi’s story is an inspiration to all girls who have been confined by their gender, stopping them from going after their dreams. Considering the fact that female boxers in Afghanistan are considered an oddity, they do not have access to the real boxing ring and hence Rahimi had to receive her training in a makeshift gym, utilising limited training equipment to practice her sport. Rahimi was exited to represent her country for the first time at the 2012 London Olympics and hopes to continue gaining ‘honour and dignity for herself and other Afghani women’, as she has often declared.
“The triumph can’t be had without the struggle.”
Wilma Glodean Rudolph was considered the ‘fastest woman in the world’ in the 1960s. Taking part in the Olympics of both 1956 and 1960, she was the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympics Game. A track and field sprinter, her speciality lay in the 100m and 200m dash. Why her story is remarkable is due to the fact that despite being born prematurely and having to wear braces on her legs for none whole years- she never let her disabilities mark her down, earning instead the fond nickname of ‘The Tornado’, that she became one with for the rest of her days. She was also considered a pioneer of civil rights for African-American men and women. The Italians nicknamed her La Gazzella Nera which means ‘The Black Gazelle’ and the French called her ‘La Perle Noire’ which means ‘The Black Pearl’.
“I’ve always believed that I could do whatever I set my mind to do.”
Alice Coachman will always be remembered as the first African-American woman in the history of the Olympics, to win a gold medal in the high-jump competition. Her specializations lay in sprinting and high jump. Alice was training to be a professional sportswomen in the small town of Albany, Georgia where racism against African-Americans was on a rampant and the entirety of the South was segregated according to race. Adding to that, she was a woman attempting to make her mark in the world of Sports that was characteristically, male. She was unable to access basic athletic training facilities that were easily available to her male counterparts, so she made do what was available to her- by running shoeless along the dirt-roads near her home and using homemade equipment to practice her jumping
These women are a reminder to us that no barrier can limit your growth and no hurdle can trip you long enough to go after what you really want more than anything- your very own dream. And most importantly- to be inspired, always.