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Africa Shows the World its Heart at the Olympics

The world has been watching the Olympics in Rio for more than a week now, and we’ve been rewarded many times over. We’ve seen gold medal performances by legends like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt — and by young athletes just starting their careers like Simone Biles. We’ve seen world records break and athletes at their finest. We saw two Chinese divers get engaged on the medal podium, and we fell in love with a team that has no country. Ahhhh, the Olympics!

As expected, South Africa has amassed the most medals so far for Africa, currently ranking 37 in the global medal standings. Smaller countries such as Liberia, Malawi, and Namibia, with teams of ten or less, go to the games knowing they’re outnumbered — but that doesn’t stop them. For these teams, it’s not about bringing home the most medals, or even any medals for that matter; it’s about sports; it’s about heart.

For its part, Africa is showing the world its heart. You may have read about Ethiopian swimmer, Robel Kiros Habte who came in dead last in his Olympic debut. The fans loved him (although social media comments later that day turned ugly as they often do), cheering him on as he finished his heat. Where many of us would be devastated with such a performance, Habte told Reuters this:[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “I am so happy because it is my first competition in the Olympics. So thanks for God.”[/perfectpullquote]

And what about Almaz Ayana? The Ethiopian runner shattered the world record in the 10,000 meter race by 14 seconds and winning gold. Again, social media had something to say, and it wasn’t pretty: hints of doping. According to a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Ayana had this to say in response to the allegations: “My doping is my training and my doping is Jesus. Nothing otherwise — I am crystal clear.”

Let’s not forget Jemima Sumgong. At age 31, she became the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the marathon event. The race took place in brutal heat, and many runners, including one of the favorites to win, Tigist Tufa from Ethiopia, didn’t finish. Africa was well represented in the marathon with the bronze medal going to Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia.

The fact that African women are dominating is heartening in and of itself as female athletes have had a long hard struggle to succeed in sports throughout Africa. Meanwhile, the Refuge Olympic Team, which is made up of athletes from war-torn countries including South Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, reminds us of the struggles athletes across the entire continent have faced — and how sports can bring the world together.

With another week of competition ahead of us, there are more stories yet to be told. Join us here at Ducor Sports as the stories unfold.

Illustration by Wendo Abuto

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