Pardon my while I rant incessantly: Olympic Girl Power

Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger”

This is the official motto for the Olympic Games. The 2012 London Games are historic. London is the first city to host a modern day Olympic competition three times. These games also hold the distinction of being the first in which every country has a female athlete competing in the games. The United States contingent actually has more women than men for the first time.

And I think that’s awesome.

I love the back stories for some of these athletes. Stories of great sacrifice and determination, physical, emotional and financial for the athletes and their families. Thousands of hours spent training, thousands of dollars spent on trainers and equipment, in some cases, money these athletes can’t afford to spend, but their families find a way. All in pursuit of their Olympic dreams. Some dream of gold, others simply dream of being good enough to qualify. For every one that does qualify, there are hundreds who try and fail. Which is why I hold each and every one of these athletes–whether they medal or not–in the highest regard. Because just to qualify is a victory in and of itself.

And then there’s Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani.

At first glance her story is an inspirational one. One of two women allowed to compete from Saudi Arabia. This is a milestone for a country where women are considered little more than property. Shahrkhani would represent her country in Women’s Judo.

Her dream seemed to be coming to an end before it started when the IOC informed her that she would not be allowed to participate in the games wearing a head covering, as it might pose a danger to herself and her opponents. She was only able to compete in judo after a compromise between Olympic organizers, the international judo federation and Saudi officials that cleared the way for her to wear a modified hijab. The following story from ABC paints a pretty picture of boundaries being overcome, milestones being made:

What the story doesn’t mention is that, unlike most athletes who have devoted the entire lives just for the Olympics, Shahrkhani wasn’t even required to qualify for the games. So enamored with the idea that Saudi would allow women to compete at all, she was given a free pass to an event hundreds of athletes tried and failed to qualify for.

That bothered me. A lot. But I was willing to give her a pass because what she would do was historical, and I actually began to feel sympathy towards her because she seemed to be a pawn in a game of international political correctness run amok. Until I learned of her Judo ranking. With the exception of Shahrkhani, all competitors in Olympic Judo hold advanced black belts.

Shahrkhani? She’s a blue belt.

judo belts

If you’ll notice, a blue belt is an entire belt color away from a black belt–let alone an advanced black belt. I have a friend who’s son just earned his orange belt in Karate. He’s the same distance away from her blue belt as she is from the other competitor’s black belts. He’s 8. He still wears Sponge Bob pajamas.

Now, you may be saying to yourselves, “But katdish! I watched the video! She is clearly wearing a black belt!” Yes, she is. But only because she and her father were whining because it was unfair that everyone else was wearing a black belt and she had to wear a blue one.

And once again, people who should ensure the highest standards in Olympic competition caved to political correctness and allowed her to wear a belt she didn’t earn while competing in an event she never should have been in in the first place.

You can call Shahrkhani’s story historic and ground breaking.

Me? I calls them likes I sees them.

A slap in the face to every athlete that actually earned the right to represent their country.

Despite this black eye to the integrity of the games, I’m still loving me some Olympics, though…

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3 Responses to “Pardon my while I rant incessantly: Olympic Girl Power”

  1. James Williams August 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Wow. I admire your stand, Kat. It’s an unpopular one. But it needed to be said and it carries more weight if it’s said by a girl. Thanks.

  2. Jason Stasyszen August 10, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    I too love the historic nature of these games, but stuff like this tarnishes and puts an asterisk by it. It’s cheating your way into the history books. I didn’t know anything about this though. Very interesting. Thanks Kat.

  3. SimplyDarlene August 13, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Hmm. All I knew about this was that her country all-but refused to recognize the two women once they got in the games. I didn’t know the backstory. Either way, me and my wranglers and leather belt won’t be making an Olympic appearance anytime soon.

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