#152 ‘against the odds’

Imagine being the fastest athlete or person in the world…what glory indeed.

Olympic Games 2008 is 16 days away (August 8th)…and BBC International has this wonderful series introducing those participating from around the world who are racing ‘against the odds’ of which I quote the following:

  • Samiya Yuusf Omar (16 years old): “Somalia is a country ridden by more than 17 years of lawlessness and civil wars. Its institutions and the national infrastructure have been destroyed, but sport is the one thing that has survived the scars of annihilation. Samiya comes from a destitute family with no breadwinner. For her and her relatives, athletics offers the chance of a route out of poverty and away from the violence; of a better life and prospects for the future. ” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7492967.stm


  • Nery Brenes (22; Costa Rica): “According to his coach, Walter Salazar, he’s the best athlete ever to have come from the country. Nery was born in the impoverished port town of Limon, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. It is a town being consumed by gang violence. Around 30 people have been killed there so far this year. Walking beneath the huge trees of Limon’s tattered central square, he told the BBC: “Right now this town is going through a difficult time.There are a lot of deaths. Young kids killing young kids. There is a lot of drugs. So I’m just trying to be like someone that they can see improving life.”” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7493000.stm


  • Vijender Kumar: “The son of a bus driver who worked overtime to pay for his coaching, Vijender is India’s unsung champion boxer. “My blood boils when everybody goes gaga over cricket,” says the 22-year-old, one of five boxers in India’s modest Olympics contingent to Beijing this summer. “It is not easy becoming a boxer in a cricket-crazy country. People here think boxers are violent or mad.” Boxing in India is a colonial legacy. The first club opened in the western city of Mumbai (then called Bombay) in 1925. The first national championship took place exactly a quarter of a century later.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7482661.stm


  • Ziad Richa: “Ziad Richa, 40, grew up to the sound of gunshots and explosions. Like many others who lived in Beirut during the civil war of 1975-1990, his childhood hopes were more about survival than winning Olympic gold. Now he sells BMWs for a living, and is getting ready to compete in the Beijing games. His sport, appropriately or not, is shooting. Clay targets, of course. “We are born in this country as hunters. In everybody’s house you will find a minimum of one gun. But I will tell you honestly I carry a gun in a peaceful way…I would like to try to achieve something to help the people of Lebanon. I want to come back and give people happiness and joy. The Olympics – it’s a dream for me”.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7492974.stm

  • Hem Bunting (Cambodia or Khmer Republic): “Bunting is one of nine children from a farming family in the remote province of Stung Treng, where sports officials spotted his talent at a provincial event and brought him to the capital. As he sits down on his simple wooden bed, with a mosquito net nailed above, he casts his eyes down the room. There are dozens of similar beds with barely enough room to walk. This is where Cambodia’s elite athletes live, all together in an improvised dormitory overlooking the swimming pool at Phnom Penh’s crumbling Olympic Stadium. The sun has yet to rise when Bunting makes his way down to the dirt track to start his warm-up routine. Now he pounds the traffic-choked streets around Phnom Penh in the run-up to the Olympics.  The elite athletes say they are often treated as second-class citizens by staff at the stadium.  Bunting and his training partner Cheng Chandara mutter that it all boils down to cash. He receives an allowance of less than $50 a month which leaves him hard-pressed to cover his basic living expenses. A pair of running shoes costs around double that amount, and with no corporate sponsorship Bunting finds it tough to buy the equipment he needs.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7493076.stm


  • Bernandette Baczko: “I began judo when I was nine, which turned out to be the ideal age for a girl, though I didn’t know that at the time. I have three older brothers, and was brought up as a bit of a tomboy, but it was actually a friend, a classmate who first took me to a training session. I fell in love with it straight away.” Bernadett advanced in the sport with great strides, encouraged by all her family, but especially her mother. “It took me three years to come to terms with the loss of my mother, and with all the injuries…only now can I talk about these things without crying.”” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7511259.stm

I shall be looking out for these athletes at the Games.

I wonder if these athletes were successful at this forthcoming Games, will they come under pressure to take performance enhanced drugs to improve their prowess?