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The Olympic-Sized Opportunity

Photo Credit: Fdecomite, Flickr

Photo Credit: Fdecomite, Flickr

By now, many of you have heard of Yusra Mardini, the Syrian refugee who competed in the Olympics as part of the refugee team.

There’s a lot of hype about her backstory.  And indeed, in what seems like an often heartless world, we need good stories of grit, determination and compassion, and her story got a lot of news play.

I want to point out something though.  While Yusra is a decent swimmer, she wasn’t Olympic caliber.  In fact, chances are that if you live in North America, you probably know someone personally who could beat her in a 100 meter butterfly race.  Her qualifying time was nearly 10 seconds below the Olympic standard, a life time at a short distance.  And, unless you caught a glimpse of the end of her race in a news highlight, you probably didn’t see her swim on television.  In fact, I spent a half an hour trying to find it in a format that I could access in Canada (thank you CBC).  Here it is:

I can’t imagine walking halfway across Europe on foot last Fall in an extremely hostile environment and being able to compete at an Olympic level, and so I’m fully prepared to give her a whole lot of credit for trying, and for the Olympics for recognizing the importance of letting her compete.  I will say that I cried like a baby nearly the entire time she was in the race saying, “You go girl”! I’m also left with hope that now that she’s in a more settled situation, she will be able to gain strength and practice and perhaps do a lot better in the next Olympics.  I’m not an expert, but I think she has good technique.

Her acceptance into the Olympics has everything to do with pointing out how awful the human race is to make people flee their circumstances, while offering them very little as restitution.  It is nice and all to let her travel to Rio to compete but I have to imagine by now that the media attention is distracting and exhausting, and perhaps dangerous.

At the very least, for all that she went through, I hope she gets some paid gigs out of this, and that she will be set for life.

I write about Mardini’s story to remind my blog readers, mostly of the HR ilk, to encourage your organizations, your friends, your fellow community, to help those in need.  Here in Canada we have many immigrants, they come with hope, but they need opportunity.  Sometimes providing someone even with the most minimal of opportunity; a job, sets forth an action that helps another, and another and another.  If I can leave you with one thought today it is this. . .look for the Mardini’s in your life and give them a chance.

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