Somali athletes dodge bullets, hardships to earn shot at Olympic glory
Running from war, dodging bullets and defying Al-Qaeda linked Islamist insurgents who ordered them stop: Somalia's determined Olympic hopefuls have overcome challenges few other athletes could even imagine
“Somalia has had no real government for the last 20 years, but determination, good fortune and hope will take us close to victory,” said 18-year-old female athlete Zamzam Mohamud Farah.
The training facilities are pock-marked with bullet holes from years of brutal conflict, but as the four athletes — two men and two women — stride out in training, they offer a glimmer of hope for the war-ravaged nation.
Coach Ahmed Ali Abikar, who himself ran for his country, believes the team could prove a point to the world about Somalia, which so often appears on international news only for war, famine, drought or piracy. “We are motivated, our team spirit will see us through,” said Abikar, as the athletes stocked up on energy with piles of sugar-laden traditional Somali pancakes. “We are suffering from hardships, constant war, lack of finance, etc,” said Abikar in the team’s base, a former primary school abandoned during fighting between rival militia forces in Mogadishu. Life has been far from easy particularly for the two female athletes, who were often forced to exercise indoors after threats by extremist Shebab insurgents. “The Shebab kept threatening me, they wanted to stop me from reaching my dreams,” said Farah.
“People are not always happy about our sports dress. We were insulted for it but we never gave up,” said Amal Bashir, another of the two female athletes.