We have finally wrapped up an amazing 2 weeks of Olympic competition and I must say I have enjoyed it immensely. Outside of the household names and the common sports we have all grown to love, I really was able to learn a lot about different athletes and sports I weren’t familiar with. So today I want to honor those athletes who weren’t on everyone’s radar but had a true gold story.
- Chierika Ukoga (Nigeria) – Chierika is the first of Nigeria to row in the Olympic games. She trained for 30 hours/week with the top athletes in the Philadelphia area under coaches at Vesper Boat Club and Conshohocken Rowing Club, while conducting women’s health research at the University of Pennsylvania. She didn’t receive any funding from Nigeria and raised the money on her own and through gofundme. She is a Stanford Grad (2014), competed D1, and completed pre-med coursework in the process. She founded a non-profit organization called Flip Flops for Africa and donated 10,000 pairs of flip flops to Nigerians in need.
- Kariman Abduljadayel (Saudi Arabia) – Kariman was the first Saudi women to compete in the 100m competition and took 7th in her preliminary heat. She didn’t qualify for the finals but was praised heavily for her courage and willingness to break the norm. She is only the second Saudi women to compete in the Olympics but surely there will be more and likely not her last time as she is only 22 years old. Kariman is seen on the left wearing her hijab, as is customary for middle eastern women not to reveal certain portions of their bodies. Sarah Attar was the first Saudi to compete in the 2012 London Games.
- Matthew Punza (Zambia) – Matt was ranked 112th in judo and was facing off against Israel’s Golan Pollack ranked 6th. I’m sure he was happy just to be at the Olympic’s and was merely just trying to do his best. However, his best landed him likely the biggest upset in the Olympic’s. If you don’t know anything about Israel, understand that they are a very well trained nation in combat. Every male , after age 17, must spend a minimum 1 year in the military where they are trained to be ready for combat as a civilian, if necessary. Matthew’s upset was short lived, as he was defeated in the next round, but definitely a success nonetheless.
If you missed the Olympics, be sure to check in with your local cable provider and catch some of the highlights. There were definitely more amazing stories and some that were not as glorious but lessons all the same. These Olympics held more meaning for me than any other due to the maturity and growth I’ve made in the last four years. The dedication it takes for these athletes to compete on this stage is unparalled to anything else in the World. These are my heroes and should be yours as well, as we all continue to let our athlete arise!!