One of my all-time favorite shows is Doctor Who. It’s filled with very quotable moments, but one of my favorites comes from the episode “The Big Bang.” The Doctor says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” Some writers say they are character-focused; others say the plot comes first. I struggle with answering that question because the characters and plot seem to arrive in my head close to the same time, hand in hand. The characters aren’t the story; the plot isn’t the story. Together, they are the story.
I’ve loved stories and the stories behind the stories for as long as I can remember. I think most people are like this. It’s why Humans of New York posts are so popular. Why posts on social media about people overcoming adversity, finding long-lost relatives, experiencing joyful reunions and other heartwarming stories get tons of likes and shares. Especially in a world that can have so much negativity and sadness, we consciously or possibly unconsciously seek out these stories that lift our spirits and renew our faith in humanity, give us hope. It’s one of the reasons I love watching the Olympics — the inspirational stories behind he athletes. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorites from this year’s Games.
Yusra Mardini — Swimming, Refugee Team — I can only imagine what Mardini has gone through to get to the Olympics. She fled Syria with her sister and had to swim 3 1/2 hours guiding a overloaded dinghy through the Aegean Sea to arrive safely on the island of Lesbos in Greece.
David Rudisha — Track & Field, Kenya — His back-to-back gold medals in the 800m are impressive, but I loved the story of how he started the Maasai Olympics, an event that allows Maasai warriors to compete against each other in athletic events as an alternative to lion hunting in an effort to protect the lion population in Kenya.
Rafaela Silva — Judo, Brazil — After growing up in Rio’s City of God favela (slum) and enduring racism following her appearance at the London Olympics, Silva captured the host country’s first gold medal.
Simone Manuel — Swimming, USA — Became the first U.S. woman to win a medal in swimming. This is particularly significant since she is African-American and our country has a shameful history of not letting African-Americans swim in public pools, seeing them as tainted if they so much as touched the water.
Zahra Nemati — Archery, Iran — Nemati was originally a taekwondo athlete, but she was hit by a car at 18 and paralyzed from the waist down. Now wheelchair-bound, she retrained in archery and is so good that she qualified for both the Paralympics and the Olympics. She was chosen as Iran’s flag-bearer in the opening ceremonies, leading out a predominantly male team.
Romance, Olympics style — I’ve heard of two marriage proposals at this year’s Olympics. One came right after Chinese diver He Zi received her silver medal in the 3m springboard competition. Her boyfriend, fellow Chinese diver Qin Kai, dropped to one knee and proposed. Aww! The first proposal of this year’s Olympics has gotten less coverage. Brazilian rugby player Isadora Cerullo was surprised by her girlfriend Marjorie Enya when she proposed at the conclusion of Brazil’s final match of the Games. More aww! Hey, I write romance, so I’m a sucker for a great proposal scene.
There are so many more inspiring stories — all of the members of the Refugee Team, Simone Biles’ hard beginning as a child of drug-addicted parents, the presence of more female athletes from countries that are known for oppressing women, Ibtihaj Muhammad — the first female athlete from the USA to wear a hijab, who went on to win a bronze medal with the U.S. women’s fencing team, and so many more.
Are you an Olympics fan? What are your favorite inspiring stories coming out of these Olympics? What are some of your favorite sources for real-life story inspiration?