Once again, the Olympics have me awestruck. Actually, I want to clarify that statement. I am in awe because of the Olympians, the humans behind the rings. Each one is incredible in their own sport and in their own right. It is not just their athleticism, skill and determination that resonates with me, but their stories. Some have overcome intense adversity, while others have defied the odds by pushing their bodies to do stunts, run distances or beat times that have never before been attempted or conquered.
Yusra Mardini is one athlete who literally had to swim her way to the Olympics. She is a part of the Refugee team and has already completed her two swimming events. Mardini was a promising swimmer in Damascus, Syria, and she was professionally recognized by the Syrian Olympic Committee. Just over a year ago, though, Damascus became increasingly unstable. She and her sister journeyed from Lebanon to Turkey before traveling on a boat, with 18 other refugees, to Greece in order to escape the conflict and destruction that tore their home a part. The boat to Greece, however, almost cost everyone their lives when it began to sink. Yusra and her sister, along with two other incredible refugees, jumped into the water to ensure the boat remained afloat. They remained in the water for the rest of the journey to swim the boat to safety. She continued her training in Germany and remarkably, made it to the games.
First time Olympian, and already two-time gold medalist, Simone Biles is another athlete with an incredible story. Biles' mother was an alcoholic and substance abuser, and her father was never in the picture. Simone and her siblings were removed from their mother's care and put into foster care when Simone was only three. This was a temporary spot, though, because their grandmother, Nellie and grandfather, Ron, welcomed Simone and her sister, Adria, into their home. Soon after, the sisters were adopted by their grandparents, who they call "Mom" and "Pop."
There are countless other athletes with stories just as inspiring as Mardini and Biles' stories. Such athletes stand as reminders that there is always more to a person than their accomplishments or failures. Our experiences create our futures by giving us certain advantages to guide and support our journeys.