Wednesday, 24 August 2016

THE OLYMPICS - IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE GAMES!

Rio Summer Olympics 2016 – Citius, Altius, Fortius - Faster, Higher, Stronger

The Summer Olympics in Rio has finally ended after two weeks of intense competition, thrilling contests and nail biting finishes that provided adrenalin pumping excitement. The Rio Games had its finale with brilliant display of fireworks


lighting up the skies in the city of God. After the celebrations comes the after effects of the Games which inevitably leaves behind a trail of despondency and gloom as the party ends and people begin to get back to their routine with a sense of vacuum.

However, the Rio Games also provided its moments of drama and controversies but leaving that aside it was a fantastic event that brought the Olympic spirit alive and the theme of 'Faster, Higher, Stronger' remained much in display with 27 new World records being made and the margins separating the winners and losers becoming ever so wafer thin.

There were several milestones achieved by athletes, for e.g. Usain Bolt’s ‘Triple Triple’, Mo Farah’s ‘Double Double’, Phelps incredible rush of gold, Ledecky making new waves, Simone Biles’s incredible gymnastic routines, the ‘Trotts’ gold haul, Nicola Adam’s power punches, Chen Aisen’s breathtaking dives, Wayde van Niekerk’s 400m world record etc., all of which lived up to the billing of the Olympic Games. 

The Olympic spirit came alive when New Zealand’s runner Nikki Hamblin stumbled and fell, accidentally tripping Abbey D'Agostino of the US and went about helping Hamblin back to her feet -- but the American had injured her leg in the incident. When it gave way and she slumped to the track seconds later, Hamblin then helped her up and stayed by her side to make sure she was fine. Hamblin only resumed the round one, heat two race at the Olympic Stadium when she knew D'Agostino was over the worst. And she waited at the finishing line to greet the American -- who hobbled through the pain to complete the race and was helped away in a wheelchair -- with a heartfelt hug. The spirit of Olympics blossomed!

Beneath all the excitement lies stories of blood, sweat and tears of the athletes. Several inspiring tales that brings to fore the enormous grit, perseverance, endurance, self-belief and determination of the participants. Many of them had overcome physical, emotional, societal and financial hurdles. Given the backdrop of their circumstances, their achievement deserves even greater admiration and respect as it implores one to look beyond constraints and inspires us to persevere in spite of immense difficulties.

The stories are hugely uplifting and reinforces the message that human pursuits have no limits.  The only limits are the ones that we impose on our minds!

Here are some of the inspirational stories (in alphabetical order) from the Rio 2016 Games:

1.         1.    Chris Mears, 23, Team GB

Along with Jack Laugher, Chris Mears won Britain’s first ever gold medal in diving. But just seven years ago things didn’t look so promising for Chris.  He contracted the life-threatening Epstein Barr virus, and was given just a 5% chance of survival.

In 2009 the diver suffered a ruptured spleen and collapsed, losing five pints of blood. He stayed in hospital for a month, and had to have his spleen removed. He made a full recovery and returned to the Games in 2010, finishing fourth in the synchro at the Commonwealth Games.
2.                 2.   Dina Asher-Smith, 19, Team GB

Just four years ago, Dina Asher-Smith was carrying out the athletes’ kit at the London Olympic Stadium. Today, the 19-year-old is Britain’s fastest woman. It’s an incredible rise that leaves the London sprinter on the verge of becoming the first British woman to dip under 11 seconds and is an increase in speed that has taken even her by surprise.  “It’s pretty weird,” she says of the tag of the fastest Brit, following her run of 11.02sec in Hengelo, Holland, in May. “I’m still not used to it.
3.                 3.   Dipa Karmakar,  23, India

Lack of modern gymnastic facilities did not deter Dipa from pursuing her dream of becoming a world class gymnast. She is the first Indian female gymnast ever to compete in the Olympics, and the first Indian gymnast to do so in 52 years. When she began gymnastics, Karmakar had flat feet, an undesirable physical trait in a gymnast because it affects their performance. Through extensive training, she was able to develop an arch in her foot.

She attained 4th position in Women's Vault Gymnastics event of Rio Olympics 2016 with an overall score of 15.066. Karmakar is only the fifth woman in gymnastics history to land the Produnova vault, or the handspring double front. The Produnova is an artistic gymnastics vault consisting of a front handspring onto the vaulting horse and two front somersaults off. The vault currently has a 7.0 D-score, and is the hardest vault performed in women's artistic gymnastics. In the Olympics women's vault gymnastics final she finished at 4th position.   Sajad Ahmad, physio/coach of Dipa Karmakar, was rushed to the Rio to keep her in optimum shape only after she qualified for the finals. Her earlier request of company of the physio was deemed wasteful!

4.                 4.   Houry Gebeshian, 27, Armenia

Houry Gebeshian works night shifts delivering babies – and then goes to the gym. She is a gymnast for the Armenian team – and a physician’s assistant the rest of the time. She told the BBC that she works nights and weekends delivering babies, and then spends her free time around that at the gym.

‘I work a 24-hour shift on Sunday and a 16-hour shift on Wednesday, but the days that I’m not working I’ll be in the gym,’ she told the BBC.  ‘I get off at around 7am, I take a bit of time off work – I’ll take a nap for about three hours – and then I’ll head straight to the gym.’
5.                 5.   Jillion Potter, 30, USA

American rugby sevens star Jillion Potter has overcome every hurdle put in her way to compete in the Olympics.

In 2010 she broke her neck during a game against Canada – an injury that could have left her as a paraplegic, preventing her from ever playing rugby again. However, she was back in the game just one year later.

She went on to play in the 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup – with what she would find out was a tumour in her mouth, later diagnosed as a rare Stage III synovial sarcoma. Her subsequent battle with cancer, chemotherapy and radiotherapy led to her being dubbed US rugby’s ‘great survivor’. Now, just three years since her diagnosis, she was back on the pitch at Rio 2016.
6.                 6.   Lopez Lomong, 31, USA

South Sudanese-American Lopez Lomong was one of thousands of child refugees caught up in the country’s horrific civil war. He was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan – a group of more than 20,000 boys of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups who were displaced or orphaned during the war.
Lopez was abducted at the age of six while attending Catholic Mass, and was assumed dead by his family. He almost died in captivity, but other people from his village helped him escape.
He sought refuge in the US in 2001, and became a naturalized citizen in 2007. For many years he assumed his parents had been killed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, but in 2003 he was reunited with his parents.
7.                 7.   Michael Phelps, 31, USA


Much has been written about Michael Phelps and his incredible list of achievements.  Undoubtedly is one of the Greatest Olympians of All Times (GOAT) with a haul of 28 Olympic medals of which 23 of them Gold! But as a child Michael had to face many challenges. At age 9, Michael was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  With the help of treatment — medication and behaviour therapy — and the support of his mother, Michael was able to channel his energies into swimming, becoming the youngest male record holder in modern sports at the age of 15.
His size 14, double-jointed feet move like flippers, which help power him through the water. Even though he seems to be genetically engineered for the water, Phelps matches his genetics with an incredible work ethic and training regimen. He and his coach Bob Bowman have a strict and disciplined routine; a must-have for anyone who wants that prestigious spot on the podium. He trains in the pool six days per week and circuit trains with weights three times per week. He doesn't lift super heavy because extra bulk wouldn't help him. He wants to keep his body light and lean.
He got 8 out 8 gold medals in Beijing Games in 2008 and in the process created 7 World Records and 1 Olympic Record!
As they say, the rest is history!
8.                 8.   Mo Farah, 33, Team GB

Mo Farah was born on 23 March 1983 in Mogadishu, Somalia. He spent the early years of his childhood in Djibouti with his twin brother. He moved to Britain at the age of eight to join his father, speaking barely any English. His athletic talent was first identified by physical education teacher Alan Watkinson. He later joined the Borough of Hounslow Athletics Club in west London.

Farah represented the UK at 5000 m in the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan and finished sixth. He was knocked out before the 5000 m final at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

He came back strongly at the London 2012 Olympics and won Gold in both the 5000m and the 10000m event. This was Great Britain's first Olympic gold medal in the 10,000 m, and Farah made it a long-distance double, winning the 5000 metres. In Rio 2016, Farah completed the “Double Double” of winning back to back Gold medals in the 5000m and 10000m event, a feat performed by only another Olympian, Lasse Viren, a Finnish Athlete who competed in Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976 Games.

9.                 9.   Nicola Adams, 33, Team GB

Adams struggled to continue her boxing career due to lack of funds. She worked as an acting extra on soap operas such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale, and EastEnders, and worked as a builder before the International Olympic Committee backed funding for women’s boxing in 2009. She is the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title for Team GB.  She has won two back to back Gold medals in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in the women's flyweight division. As of May 2016 she is the reigning Olympic, World, Commonwealth Games and European Games champion in the flyweight category.

10.            10.   Nick Skelton, 58, Team GB

Nick Skelton made his Olympic debut in 1988, but in 2000 his hopes and dreams of continuing his Olympic career came to a halt after breaking the Cl vertebra in his neck from falling at the Park Gate Shows in Cheshire, England.  Skelton’s fall also caused a ligament to snap and tore away a piece of his spine. He broke his neck and was told by doctors that he would never be able to ride again. The following year Skelton received news that the bones in his neck had healed beyond expectations and returned to the saddle in 2002.
Fast forward 16 years and the Warwickshire-born horse enthusiast is an Olympic champion in his own right, having earlier won a team gold in London 2012. Skelton, the oldest competitor in Rio’s Jumping Finals, proved that age doesn’t mean a thing except that he’s only gotten better as the 58-year-old delivers three back-to-back clear rounds after starting with a clean slate.
Six Games after his debut, Skelton earns a fairy tale ending to his equestrian career by  not only adding an individual gold title to his London 2012 team title, but he became the first British individual show jumper to earn a golden title.
11.           11.   Rafaela Silva, 24, Brazil
Rafaela Silva, a Judo star, grew up in Rio’s most infamously violent favela – the City of God.
As a child she faced poverty, inequality and racism – and was first enrolled in Judo by her family in order to keep her away from a life of gangs and drugs. Years later, she’s just earned Brazil its first gold medal in this year’s Games.
Juliana Barbassa, who wrote about the City of God and is a native Brazilian, told the BBC: ‘It’s a situation of literal marginalisation – they were pushed to the margins. ‘To get out of it as Silva has done is really challenging. She literally had to fight her way out of the environment.’
12.            12.   Sakshi Malik, 23, India

Sakshi Malik was born on 3 September 1992 in Mokhra village of Haryana.  Her father, Sukhbir is a bus conductor with the Delhi Transport Corporation.  According to her father, she was motivated to take up wrestling from seeing her grandfather Badhlu Ram, who was also a wrestler.  She began training in wrestling at the age of 12 under a coach, Ishwar Dahiya, at an Akhara in Rohtak. Coming from a State known for patriarchal mindset, it is indeed a phenomenal achievement for her to have pursued wrestling, traditionally a male preserve. Her coach and she had to face opposition from the locals for having taken up a sport "not for girls”.

She won a Bronze medal in the 58kg freestyle at the Rio 2016 Games and came home to a rousing welcome.

13.            Simone Biles, 19, USA

American gymnast Simone Biles is undoubtedly the shining star of Rio 2016 Games. A newcomer to the Olympics, she’s so far ahead of her competition that other gymnasts joked that the real contest was to see who would be placed second.
But her life hasn’t been easy. Her biological mother struggled with serious drug and alcohol abuse, and when Simone was just five she was taken into care. Simone and her sister Adria, who was three at the time, stayed in a foster home in Ohio waiting to be adopted – until her biological grandparents, Ron and Nellie, found out what had happened and decided to adopt the girls themselves. Biles first tried gymnastics at six years old as part of a day-care field trip. The instructors suggested she continue with gymnastics. Biles soon enrolled in an optional training program at Bannon's Gymnastix. It was while living with her new parents that Simone’s talent began to flourish – and she would be on her way to becoming one of the greatest gymnasts of our time.
With four Olympic gold medals, Biles set a new American record for most gold medals in women’s gymnastics at a single Games, and equalled a number of other records with her medals won in Rio. Biles' win of four gold medals was the first instance of a quadruple gold medallist in women's gymnastics at a single Games since Ecaterina Szabo(Romania) in 1984, and the fifth overall, after Larisa Latynina (USSR, 1956), Agnes Keleti ( HUN, 1956), Věra Čáslavská (CZE, 1968) and Szabo.  Biles became the sixth female gymnast to have won an individual all-around title at both the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
She was chosen by Team USA to be the flag bearer for the closing ceremonies. She was the first American female gymnast to be given the honour.
14.            14.   Usain “Lightning” Bolt, 30, Jamaica


His parents ran the local grocery store in the rural area, and Bolt spent his time playing cricket and football in the street with his brother, later saying, "When I was young, I didn't really think about anything other than sports".  As a child, Bolt attended Waldensia Primary, where he first began to show his sprinting potential, running in the annual national primary-schools' meeting for his parish. By the age of twelve, Bolt had become the school's fastest runner over the 100 metres distance.
He became the first junior sprinter to run the 200 m in under twenty seconds, taking the world junior record outright with a time of 19.93s. Bolt headed to the 2004 Athens Olympics with confidence and a new record on his side. However, he was hampered by a leg injury and was eliminated in the first round of the 200 metres with a disappointing time of 21.05 s. 

The year 2005 signaled a fresh start for Bolt in the form of a new coach, Glen Mills, and a new attitude toward athletics. Mills recognised Bolt's potential and aimed to cease what he considered an unprofessional approach to the sport. Bolt began training with Mills in preparation for the upcoming athletics season, partnering with more seasoned sprinters such as Kim Collins and Dwain Chambers.
However, misfortune awaited Bolt at the next major event, the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. Injuries were preventing him from completing a full professional athletics season, and the eighteen-year-old Bolt still had not proven his mettle in the major world-athletics competitions. Bolt was involved in a car accident in November, and although he suffered only minor facial lacerations, his training schedule was further upset. His manager, Norman Peart, made Bolt's training less intensive, and he had fully recuperated the following week. Bolt had continued to improve his performances, and he reached the world top-5 rankings in 2005 and 2006.
Peart and Mills stated their intentions to push Bolt to do longer sprinting distances with the aim of making the 400 m event his primary event by 2007 or 2008. Bolt was less enthusiastic, and demanded that he feel comfortable in his sprinting. He suffered another hamstring injury in March 2006, forcing him to withdraw from the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and he did not return to track events until May.  After his recovery, Bolt was given new training exercises to improve flexibility, and the plans to move him up to the 400 m event were put on hold. He yearned to run in the 100 metres but Mills was skeptical, believing that Bolt was better suited for middle distances. The coach cited the runner's difficulty in smoothly starting out of the blocks, and poor habits such as looking back at opponents in sprints. Mills told Bolt that he could run the shorter distance if he broke the 200 m national record. In the Jamaican Championships, he ran 19.75 s in the 200 m, breaking the 36-year-old Jamaican record held by Don Quarrie by 0.11 s. Mills complied with Bolt's demand to run in the 100 m.
Bolt announced that he would double-up with the 100 metres and 200 metres events at the Beijing Summer Olympics, and the new 100 m world-record holder was the favourite to win both. Michael Johnson, the 200 m and 400 m record holder, personally backed the sprinter, saying that he did not believe that a lack of experience would work against him. Bolt qualified for the 100 m final with times of 9.92 s and 9.85 s in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.

In the Olympic 100 m final, Bolt broke new ground, winning in 9.69 s (unofficially 9.683 s) with a reaction time of 0.165 s. This was an improvement upon his own world record, and he was well ahead of second-place finisher Richard Thompson, who finished in 9.89 s. Not only was the record set without a favourable wind (+0.0 m/s), but he also visibly slowed down to celebrate before he finished and his shoelace was untied.

He followed that up with a Gold in 200m and in 4X100m relay in Beijing winning 3 Olympic Gold medals.  He repeated the feat in London 2012 and Rio 2013, completing the “Triple Triple” earning him the title of “Greatest Athlete of All Time”. Another GOAT!

Regarded as the fastest human ever timed, he is the first man to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records.

15.            15.   Wayde van Nekeirk, 24, South Africa

Odessa Swarts, a track-and-field athlete who competed provincially in South Africa, couldn't qualify for the national team, let alone the summer Olympics, because of her ethnicity while the country was under apartheid.
She never got the chance. But her son is making up for it. Swarts' son, Wayde van Niekerk, won gold in the 400-meter sprint Sunday in Rio with a world-record time of 43.03 seconds. The record in the event had been held by U.S. track and field legend Michael Johnson for over 15 years.
Van Niekerk became the only man to have won the Olympic 400 metres from lane eight and the first man to win the race from an outside lane since the 1924 win by Scotland's Eric Liddell in lane six.
16.            16.   Yiech Pur Biel, 21, Refugee

Yiech Pur Biel fled South Sudan 11 years ago to escape the civil war, and ended up living in a refugee camp for 10 years. Because of this, his training for Rio has been unconventional. He only started running a year ago, and has said that there were ‘no facilities in the camp, not even shoes’.

But now he will run in the 800m, and just wants to ‘show the world that, being a refugee, you can do something’. 

17.            17.    Yolande Bukasa Mabika, 28, Refugee

Yolande Bukasa Mabika, a judoka, is from Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo – one of the worst affected areas in the country’s brutal civil war from 1998 to 2003. She was separated from her parents at a very young age, and was eventually found and taken to a centre for displaced children in Kinshasa. It was here that she took up judo.

‘Judo never gave me money, but it gave me a strong heart,’ she said. ‘I got separated from my family and used to cry a lot. I started judo to have a better life.’
18.            18.   Yusra Mardini, 18, Refugee

Yusra Mardini is the face of the Olympics’ first ever team of refugees. She had a budding swimming career in her home city of Damascus, but when the civil war started her pool was bombed and life was increasingly perilous. Her family realised that they had to flee.
In 2012, she represented Syria in the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships 200 metre individual medley, 200 metre freestyle and 400 metre freestyle events.
Mardini's house was destroyed in the Syrian civil war. Mardini and her sister Sarah decided to flee Syria in August 2015. They reached Lebanon, and then Turkey, where they arranged to be smuggled into Greece by boat with 18 other migrants, though the boat was meant to be used by no more than six or seven people. After the motor stopped working and the dinghy began to take on water in the Aegean Sea, Mardini, her sister, and two other people who were able to swim got into the water and pushed the boat for over 3 hours until it reached Lesbos. They then travelled through Europe to Germany, where they settled in Berlin in September 2015. Her parents also fled Syria and live in Germany.  
On arrival in Germany, Mardini continued her training with in Berlin, in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics. She attempted to qualify in the 200 metre freestyle swimming event. In June 2016, Mardini was one of ten athletes selected for the Refugee Olympics Team. Mardini competed in the 100-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Mardini won a 100m butterfly heat at the Rio Olympics, against four other swimmers, with a time of 1:09.21 and a rank of 41st among 45 entrants. All other five heats, with 8 competitors each, had winning times under 1 minute.

19.           19.   Zahra Nemati
Zahra Nemati is an Iranian Paralympic and an Olympic archer. She originally competed in Taekwondo before she was paralyzed in a car accident. The accident shattered her spine and she was paralysed from the waist-down. This didn’t stop her Olympic dreams though. At the 2012 Summer Paralympics she won two medals, an individual gold and team bronze.
Zahra, who is now wheelchair-bound, re-trained in archery – and is so good that she’s qualified to compete in both the Paralympics and the Olympics, against able-bodied athletes. She has qualified to compete at both the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2016 Summer Paralympics.
She’s already broken records. In London’s 2012 Paralympics, she became the first Iranian woman to win a gold medal in either the Olympics or the Paralympics. 
Zahra was also chosen to be the flag-bearer for Iran at the opening ceremony – proudly leading out a team dominated by men. 

The above stories of individual struggles and triumph against adversities shows the enormous self-belief which is an inspiration to all of us.  In the pursuit of excellence the only limit is the one that we impose on our minds!

So go on pursue your dreams with gay abandon! Fortune favours the brave! Best of luck!!!

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