I know, the title of the post is ridiculous-ALL Olympic athletes are exceptional. Competing at the highest level of their sport for the world to see is pretty damn exceptional. That being said, these Olympics seem to be chock full of women and men who have not only qualified for the games but have overcome war, poverty, discrimination, abuse, and disability.
Marathon runner Guor Marial, wears no country’s flag on his uniform. Although he lives in the United States, he is without a passport or a country. Born in South Sudan, the newest country in the world has yet to establish an Olympic committee. Offered to a place on the Sudanese team, Marial refused, as the conflict between the two countries was responsible for the death of 28 of his family members.
Adrien Niyonshut, the first Rwandan to compete in mountain biking, struggles with blinding headaches and the memories of a genocide which killed 6 of his brothers.
South Korean shooter Im Dong-Hyun, is legally blind but has done nothing to correct his vision. Double amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius will be running 4×400 Olympic relay for South Africa.
Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar will be the first Saudi Arabian women to ever compete in the Olympic games, an incredible feat given that Saudi Arabian women are effectively banned from participating in sport. London 2012 is the first games where all countries will have entered both male and female teams.
As critical as I am of the Olympics, the courage and commitment of these athletes is truly inspiring.