Like most people, I'm a sucker for a good underdog story. People who, against the odds, achieve their dreams through hard work, sacrifice, and a spot of good luck. I feel like most of the movies about Olympic underdogs tend to be about men, though - Miracle on Ice, Cool Runnings, the one that came out this year with the British ski jumper guy. Partially as a corrective measure, and partially because they just have the best stories, I'm focusing on the inspiring women of the Olympics this time around.
Simone Biles doesn't seem like anyone's idea of an underdog, does she? She's widely considered to be one of the best gymnasts in the world, combining "athleticism and exuberance" in a way that has rarely, if ever, been seen in the world of gymnastics. She didn't have an easy start in life, though - her mother struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and Simone and her sister spent time in the foster care system before being adopted by their grandparents.
Simone has also had to deal with racist remarks from competitors and commentators. At the age of 16, after winner her first World Championship, a competitor "joked" that maybe if she "painted her skin black," she could win next time. Other black gymnasts, including the remarkably talented Gabby Douglas, have talked about the racist remarks they would overhear at their training gyms, and I don't think it's a stretch to think that Simone probably heard similar things, although I don't think she's explicitly talked about it.
To put all that behind her and become the gymnastics powerhouse that she is is an incredible feat, the sort of story that reminds you how much perseverance and sheer willpower can help carry you through life.
This video, from the New Yorker does an amazing job illustrating just how spectacularly talented she is.
This girl... When the 18 year old Syrian refugee's boat stalled in the cold waters of the Mediterranean, she and her sister got out and towed it for three hours, saving the lives of twenty people. Now she's living in Germany and competing in the Olympics, and I'm not crying you're crying shut up.
The American Women's Soccer Team
So Americans aren't super into soccer. That's not exactly news, but what might be is that American women are actually awesome at it - World Cup Champions and Olympic gold medalists. So why are they being paid so much less than the American men who play soccer, who are... well, not as good?
That's a question that they're demanding the answer to via a lawsuit alleging wage discrimination. They're not alone in professional athletics - tennis and golf have seen similar controversies in recent years. I feel like there's a serious lack of respect or interest in women's athletics, particularly if they're not the ones that play up the femininity of the participants.
So, are there any stories that you're feeling particularly moved by this year?