“No matter what or where you come from, if you work hard at it, you can achieve it.” – Mo Farah, Team GB
Emotional, sensational and influential, the Olympics are famously dubbed as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” With over 11’000 athletes representing a record number of 207 nations in a wide range of sport, from rapid- fire shooting to synchronised diving, one cannot underestimate the infinite strength and phenomenal unity this event carries on its back.
Of course, one must agree that the main backbone of these games are none other than the athletes themselves. With no athletes, skilled in a wide variety of sports, how can anyone hope for a gripping event quivering with joy, grief and excitement?
Athletes from scores of religions, ethnicity and colour represented their respected nations at Rio 2016. Muslims have always competed at the Olympics, but few would come home with medals. But by 2012, it all changed. During the London 2012 Olympics, the IOC relaxed rules on clothing, allowing athletes to wear loose shirts and full length leggings, thus opening the gates for Muslim women to compete in this iconic event. The result of this was that every Muslim majority country had at least one woman on their team. Not to mention that the famous Aquatics Centre, which was built for the swimming events during London 2012, was breathtakingly designed by renowned Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid.
Rio 2016 was the landmark for the Muslim sporting world. A record number of Muslim competitors, under their flags, came onto the international stage to compete against some of the greatest contestants in a diverse range of sporting activities, and many left with medals of gold, silver and bronze. Muslim athletes represented many countries, including the US and Great Britain, and earned medals, beat records, and gained personal bests.
One amazing Muslim athlete who continues to inspire everyone in the world, Mohammad Farah, won a “double, double,” by gaining Gold in the track 10,000 and 5000m race this year. The Somalian-descent runner remains to be the only second man to retain the 10’000m and 5000m titles. After he won both races, he went down into sujood twice and then made du’aa. This just brings Islam into another completely different light, not violent and extremist like it’s usually presented in the media, but showed the adoring spectators in the track stadium the positive power Islam carries.
Another Muslim athlete was in the limelight in the months building up to the Rio Olympics. She was the first Muslim-Hijabi African-American to be part of the US Fencing team. Ibtihaj Muhammad. Not only did she compete, but won a bronze medal in the Womens Group Fencing in these Olympics. Ibtihaj became an inspiration to all the women across the globe and gave a clear, strong message to everyone– that the hijab doesn’t stop you from achieving your goals, no matter how ambitious they may seem. The 30-year-old from New Jersey considers her position a great honour and said in an interview, “the honour of representing Muslim and black women is not one I take lightly.” Ibtihaj has opened up the path for young hijabis around the world to compete and win on the international platform of sport.
But during the Olympics, one Muslim woman made history. Sarah Ahmed. The 18-year-old Egyptian weightlifter became the first woman from an Arab country to win a medal in weightlifting (69kg class). After competing with world famous names, Sarah came out with a bronze medal, making history by also being the first Egyptian woman to win a medal in the country’s 104-year history in the Games. “It’s a very great honour and I cannot express it,” she said in an interview following her iconic achievement. “It’s not easy to compete here because all the athletes are very experienced.”
These are just a handful of Muslim athletes who made not only their country proud but gave the Muslims across the globe something to cheer about. It shows us how positive and pure Islam is, not how the media presents it. In Islam, sports are given much importance as its mentioned in Qur’an and Hadith how important it is to keep ourselves healthy. With these athletes being a very big inspiration to us all, it just strongly shows us how nothing is impossible.
“If you have it, you can do it.”