Rio Olympics 2016, Muslims and 10 Life Lessons

As the 2016 Rio Olympics come to a close, we wanted to share some highlights from the event. More importantly, to grasp a few takeaways which extend beyond the games to marriage and more importantly, life.

Photo by Al King available under a Creative Commons Attribution-license
Photo by Al King available under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Firstly, a few thoughts about the Olympics from a Muslim Perspective. There’s a lot going in the Muslim world and here in the US homeland. Despite the heartbreaking news and images coming from Syria and the region, the Olympics had a few bright spots to kick it off. One of the first, was that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had for the first time ever allowed refugees to come together as a team and participate. In that small delegation was a Yusra Mardini, a Syrian refugee who along with her sister saved the lives of 20 people on a small dinghy boat in the Mediterranean. Yusra went on to wins her 100m butterfly heat at Rio. Then there is all the positive press that Ibtihaj Muhammad received before and during the event for becoming the first American-Muslim to represent the US in a hijab. She went on to win a team Bronze medal.

Here is a summary of the medal count by Muslim Majority countries as well as Muslim Olympians:

Rio Olympic Medal Muslim chart

They represent countries like the UK, US and Russia. With the likes of Mo Farah, Dalilah Muhammad, Ibtihaj Muhammad, and Aliya Mustafina. We may have missed some people, but hopefully you get the picture. Some Muslim countries, especially from the former Central Soviet states, did extremely well. Others like Pakistan, with a population of over 180 Million people, failed to qualify for a single event and had a token representation through a wild card entry.

So here are some of the lessons we can apply:

1. Goal-oriented and committed. Name any of the legends of Rio, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, in them all you will see not only great performances but people who are serious about what they want to accomplish and what they are willing to do to get it. Practicing 300 days a year is one such example.
2. Have faith. Again if you listen to the interviews of both Muslim athletes and people of other faiths, praying and trusting in God played a central role in their success.
3. Care about their reputation. Yes there were some athletes and delegations who discredited themselves and their host countries, but by in large, what happens off-stage is just as important as what goes on-stage.
4. Best physically, mentally, both scientist and artists. All athletes have great physiques, but it is their mental toughness, focus, and artistry that makes them stand head and shoulders above the rest.
5. Focus on being the best version of themselves. The only thing they can control is themselves, the competition will always be there. They have dreams but they focus on the present, and tune out the past.


6. Part of great teams. Even in solo events, it is rare that an athlete got to their peak performance without the help of coaches and other team members.
7. Care about the competition. It is not always about winning medals. In the Rio Olympics a collision on the track occurred between U.S. runner Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin. Both athletes showed compassion and the best that humanity has to offer by helping each other.
8. Get up and keep going. This is what happened to Mo Farah, who fell, got back up, caught up with the leaders and still went on to win the Gold Medal.
9. Come in all shapes. Just as there is no one model of an Olympian so is the case for Muslims. Of the women some wore hijabs and some did not, some men had beards and others did not, some prostrated after their wins and others did not. Accepting people for who they are is more important than trying to impose our versions of right and wrong.
10. Ignore the naysayers. The overall pre-event press coverage about the Rio Olympics was fairly negative, with issues, of pollution (health), crime, Zika, political instability, readiness and more dominating the headlines. Yet by in large, the Olympics relatively speaking went off without any major showstoppers.

Finally, in marriage as in life, having common goals, commitment, faith, reputation, focus, being part of a team, seeking help from a coach, ignoring the naysayers, and being selfless are all examples of how we too can be Olympians of life.

In conclusion, Olympians have the following characteristics: common goals, commitment, faith, focus, teamwork, seeking help, ignoring naysayers and being selfless. Therefore, we can take those same characteristics and apply them to our everyday lives, including our marriages.

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