Tales of the Olympians

by Xtra team

Ever since the ‘Rio Olympics 2016’ was kicked off last week, the feats and accomplishments during the various games have already caught the attention of global audiences. But, besides sports, the human stories of some of the athletes are also making headlines. 


From warzone to pool

warzone-to-poolHistory was made as refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini made it to the Olympics pool this year. In August 2015, four years into the Syrian civil war, the 18-year-old fled her home. After boarding a boat, her perils seemed to multiply as the boat began to sink. Yusra jumped into the water. For three hours, she and her sister pushed the boat to shore, saving nearly 20 lives. Yusra travelled more than 1,500 miles through Turkey and central Europe before settling in Berlin, Germany, where she later started training for the Olympics. And thus she belongs to the first refugee team to ever compete in the Games.
She stepped onto the starting block with high hopes last Wednesday but finished seventh out of eight in her heat. Although Yusra will not be leaving Rio with an Olympic medal, she has already won the hearts of millions of people around the world. She has already swum the race of a lifetime.


USA’s hijabi fencer

USA's-hijabi-fencerWith tensions prevailing in the world over radicalism, Ibtihaj Muhammad came to the Olympics 2016 as the second best fencer in America and the country’s first athlete to wear a hijab at the Rio Games. Fencing became an appeal to her as a sport because she found it easier to cover herself up in this than at other events. But Muhammad is not modest when it comes to expressing herself. She described it as ‘groundbreaking’ that a female Muslim could make it on to the US team.
‘The story of America’ was created prior to the Rio Games, as Muhammad’s inclusion in the event became more widely known. Simultaneously, the New Jersey native also became increasingly prominent. Time magazine listed her as one of the 100 most influential Americans, describing her life as ‘the story of America’.
Not just a gifted athlete, Muhammad holds two bachelor’s degrees from Duke University in International Relations and African-American studies. But her fencing career began when she was aged just 13 after she joined the school team. However Muhammad gained increasing attention when she kept winning medals in American fencing championships. While fasting, she trained hard even during Ramadan, and later thrived to recover from muscle injuries.


Ancient therapy becomes popular among Olympians

OlympiansMichael Phelps and his pals at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre are not the only ones who are into using ‘cupping’ therapy that leaves large purple circles on the body and has created curiosity among fans. The therapy is also popular among other members of the USA track and field team, according to sports experts.
The athletes taking the therapy have found it as an effective alternative therapy to add to the toolkit of resources. It is reported that the staff learned about the technique while travelling in China and after studying the work of their Chinese counterparts.
However, the history of the therapy extends beyond time. The technique involves through either heat or suction, where the skin is gently drawn upwards by creating a vacuum in a cup over the target area of the skin. The cup stays in place for five to 15 minutes. It is believed by some to help treat pain, deep scar tissues in the muscles and connective tissue, muscle knots, and swelling.
There is reason to believe the practice dates from as early as 3000 BC. Old medical textbooks describe that the Egyptians used cupping, while mentioning similar practices employed by Saharan peoples. The method was highly recommended by Prophet Muhammad and hence well-practiced by Muslim scientists who elaborated and developed the method further.

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