What we can all learn from the Tokyo 2020 Olympians



I have two jobs, so I don’t live below the poverty line, in addition to competing as a world class athlete.

It’s intimidating to dream big because if you fail you’ll feel like everything is going to fall apart around you … while the world is watching you.

After fleeing my country, I had to rebuild my life and raise my children, while continuing to compete.

It’s an uphill battle growing up without role models of athletes who look like me racially or in terms of ability, so I have to forge my own path.

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These are just a few of the experiences I have heard from the countless Olympians and Paralympians I have worked with over the past year in my role as host of the Flame carriers Podcast. While we often put the world’s best athletes on pedestals, they face very real challenges every day, and they don’t get the media coverage they deserve. As a result, spectators and fans are absent, as we don’t hear and see all the experiences; we are currently only getting a piece of the pie.

Despite all the challenges and changes of the past year, the best athletes in our world have adapted on the fly. If they can take the punches, they can teach many of us a thing or two about coping with change. Here are my top 10 takeaways from these amazing women.

  1. When things don’t go as planned, because they often won’t, help make things better instead of waiting for someone else to solve the problem. When Indian para badminton world champion Manasi Joshi lost her leg in a car accident, she immediately went into problem-solving mode. As she bled on the road, surrounded by onlookers, she called for help and gave orders that ultimately saved her life. There is no second chance in life, so make your time yours.
  2. The only person who can put you in a box is yourself. Nigerian basketball player Ezinne Kalu was fed up with always being considered the basketball player – for good reason, as she was the 2019 Afrobasket Most Valuable Player. That said, she wanted to be known for more than just her skills on the basketball court. land, so she became an entrepreneur and started her own cosmetics business. Ezinne took out a few of the enemies in the process.
  1. To make effective change, you don’t always want to be the loudest, but sometimes you want to be the smartest. People often think of leaders as loud extroverts, but there are huge benefits for different types of leaders, including quieter introverts. Captain Becky Sauerbrunn has been the rock of the United States Women’s National Football Team for the past eight years, but because she’s not the loudest, she’s often overlooked from outsiders’ perspective. . She is the glue of this powerful team and her teammates recognize it.
  1. Focus on what you can control and forget about the rest. There is so much uncertainty in our world right now; work on what you have the power to control, then let go of everything else. Danish rower Ida Jacobsen continued to emphasize this point about how she continued to stay focused during the pandemic.
Nigerian basketball star Ezinne Kalu also runs a cosmetics business © Getty Images
Nigerian basketball star Ezinne Kalu also runs a cosmetics business © Getty Images
  1. Realize that Olympians and Paralympians are humans too: we tend to put them on pedestals and think of them as Greek goddesses, but they need our help like everyone else. Like Grace Stone, sister of America’s top ranked saber fencer, Eliza Stone said, “The Olympians might need a taping and they might need a call. They are going through exactly the same things as all of us. If you have elite athletes in your life, humanize them. Check in as you would your other friends. “
  1. Don’t feel bad for yourself if you are different. Use it as a force and pave the way for future people like yours. American para-swimmer Sophia Herzog was never allowed to throw a pity party as a child. On the contrary, his parents “never felt sorry for [her] and they did not leave [her] feel sorry for [herself]. ”She fueled her frustration in taking action for positive change.
  1. Sport has the potential to bridge gaps and heal injuries, especially if athletes are intentional in their time and feedback. Iranian gold medalist Zahra Nemati tried her luck by working with me on the first anniversary of General Qasem Soleimani’s death. She did it because she believes that sport has the opportunity to bring people and nations together. Our nations – Iran and the United States – were on the verge of war when I produced her episode, and because of that our collaboration meant so much more.
  1. Being the best in the world doesn’t mean you’re always serious. American mountain biker Lea Davison is one of the funniest people I have ever met. Having said that, when she’s at the start line, I know I would step back under her gaze. I felt like top athletes were all serious, but when they’re not competing, many of the best in the world, like Davison, love to laugh.
Zahra Nemati was the very first Iranian woman to win a Paralympic gold © Getty Images
Zahra Nemati was the very first Iranian woman to win a Paralympic gold © Getty Images
  1. When you have a life expectancy of 18, you are living life to the fullest every day. Live like this without being told that your days are numbered. Chilean table tennis player Tamara Leonelli was born with spina bifida and is now five years older than her life expectancy; she is the first Chilean table tennis player to win gold at the Parapan Am Games and is preparing to win gold in Tokyo. Leonelli’s ability to capture every moment is his magic.
  1. Olympians, and Paralympians in particular, are not getting the attention or media credit they deserve. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Chasing Equity report, in the United States, only 3.2 percent of sports media coverage is devoted to women’s sports. This is important because according to the same report, 70 percent of female leaders say the lack of media coverage limits girls’ sport participation. Beyond the overall media coverage, most media do not highlight athletes with different appearances or physical experiences. If you’re a black woman with limited eyesight and albinism like Kym Crosby, it’s hard to get the media to tell your story and do it in a thought-provoking way. It’s problematic because representation is important. A lack of diverse representation makes it difficult for young girls to see their future in someone who does not exist today. While it is easy to criticize the press, we all play an active role in changing media coverage as the media responds to demand. Start connecting, dating and supporting female athletes!


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