Breaking the Glass Hurdle: Women's Firsts in the 2012 Olympics
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These athletes live with this turmoil daily. Before they came into the world’s view, way before these Olympics, these women trained in a sport they loved despite constant contention. They trained anyway and become better without any certainty that they would ever be tapped to step into the spotlight. There are countless athletes about whom we will never know. And for many women from the most conservative countries especially, they’ve had to train secretly, hidden away for fear of death threats and other punishments and humiliation that goes beyond our comprehension.
Most of us fist pumped when we initially heard of the inclusion of the Saudi women, as if the matter was suddenly solved and done. But the issues are so complicated for Arab women that it’s hard to say where these milestones will lead. Is this the beginning or the end? Girls in Saudi Arabia will not be allowed to watch the Olympics; they cannot even participate in P.E in school. For the athletes, it is so much to bear – almost too much – to be the first. It forces me to acknowledge all women who have been the first to push their way into their passions no matter the opposition. Even during the very first modern Olympics in 1896, two Greek women who were denied participation in the marathon ran it anyway, unofficially.
I love these kinds of stories. They make me feel triumphant and proud – thankful mostly – but really I can’t imagine the spotlighted scrutiny of being the first. I’m not sure I could take the cruel criticism of being called a disgrace to my country, culture, and religion. I am possibly not strong enough to constantly hear that I can’t, that I shouldn’t. I’ve towed the line at a very small level, but I don’t know if I’m brave enough to go through what past or present pioneers must have or do endure. So, I will just be thankful for them and root for them not just for their events, but for their lives beyond these Games.