Exciting film awaits about Syrian Swimmer

Stephen Daldry, a famous director, has announced he’s working on a film about Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini.

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Mardini who was already a promising swimmer before she left the civil war in Syria travelled with her sister to Lebanon, then on to the Turkish port of Izmir, before  getting onto an overcrowded dinghy bound for the Greek island of Lesbos. But less than half an hour into their journey the motor stopped and the boat threatened to capsize: out of the 20 people aboard, only three knew how to swim: Yusra being one of them. For more than three hours, they did what had to be done, swimming alongside the dinghy, pushing, pulling and cajoling it until they reached land.

“I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea, because I am a swimmer,” Yusra recalls

She eventually settled in Germany, joined a swim team in Berlin and within months she was in Brazil, one of the 43 stateless athletes competing in Rio as the first ever refugee team. The film of her life is going to be both interesting in how it shows the escape from a war torn country as well as the determination of a young athlete aiming for swimming glory.

In class this week when discussing with Year 8 students what their human rights are we’ve mentioned Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

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Three years ago a Crystal Meth Addict, today Olympic Long Jump Silver Medallist

I loved watching the Olympics this summer, and thought I’d read it all. Every day I would read the newspaper websites which shed light on the personal stories behind the victories and medals. The British cyclist who’d beaten a cancer scare to claim gold, the American gymnast who’d been fostered as a child and was dealing with racist tweets by refusing to place her hand on her heart during the American anthem, and the British diver who’d nearly died from an illness but had fought back to be match fitness.

Well somehow I missed this story. A South African long jumper who just three years ago was a crystal meth addict, and who’d overcome the addiction and with the help of an Irish coach had managed to win a Silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

National Anthem Controversy

Standing for your country’s national anthem is traditional and some might say simply a sign of respect. But American football player Colin Kaepernick has been refusing to stand for the national anthem as a protest against the plight of black people in the US. A week after staying seated during The Star-Spangled Banner, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback again kneeled during the anthem before a match on Thursday.

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The BBC reports how his protest has been met with some booing in the stadium, plenty of criticism in the media but also some support.

NFL.com also reports on why Kaepernick decided to move his civil rights protests into such controversial direction after much consideration.

Do you sing along to your national anthem, do you feel the need to stand or do you just follow the crowd around you?

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, often gets into quagmire for refusing to sing the national anthem. He was heavily criticised by people in the media for standing in silence whilst God Save the Queen was played during a Battle of Britain remembrance ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral attended by the Prime Minister, Defence Secretary and scores of military leaders. Many people said he was dishonourable for refusing to sing the national anthem but Mr Corbyn later insisted that he “stood in respectful silence” during the remembrance ceremony.

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Mr Corbyn is a pacifist and staunch republican, often calling for the monarchy to be abolished. Some journalists have praised his “authenticity” for not singing along to something he doesn’t believe in.

When some of the British athletes returned from Rio this August on a specially organised BA flight they nearly all felt the need to stand and sing God Save the Queen. I did say nearly all…

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Here are the medal winners before their sing song:

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Fu Yuanhui talks about her period

I think even in the UK girls and women don’t talk that openly about their periods and how it affects their bodies, both physically and emotionally. It’s almost taboo in the UK too.

Well in certain parts of the world it is even more of a ‘no-go subject’ – you’d never talk in public, never mind to the media, about how your period has affected your performance. So it comes as a welcome breath of fresh air that China’s Fu Yuanhui spoke openly about how coming on her period the day before a big Olympic swimming final meant that she was not on top form. Fu said: “I didn’t swim well enough this time,” and apologised to her team-mates. “It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired – but this isn’t a reason, I still didn’t swim well enough.”

The Guardian reports on how the swimmer has gained lots of support for her frankness, especially in China where only 2% of women reportedly use tampons, something which makes swimming whilst on your period, safe and easy.

Periods are something which can make sporting life a tiny bit more complicated for girls and women. They have to make sure they have tampons or sanitary towels at the ready when they want to do sport comfortably and confidently, even when they are on their period. The Bodyform brand had a new ad campaign this summer reminding women that you shouldn’t let your period hold you back no matter who you are. Periods shouldn’t stop us from keeping fit. The tagline, discussed by advertising websites, is ‘no blood should hold us back’ and their video shows tough women pushing themselves so hard in sport and adventure that they draw blood. Watch it here: youtube

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Fu Yuanhui had already gained lots of media attention for her bubbly honest interviews. One of the best is shown in a Guardian article when she felt disappointed with her swim and then belatedly discovers she won a bronze.

Van Niekierk – the signs were there

Back in March 2016 Wayde Van Niekierk from South Africa ran a sub 10 second 100m race, to make him the first athlete to run under 10 seconds for the 100m, 20 seconds for the 200m and 44 seconds for 400m. On Instagram afterwards Wayde wrote “Wow! Finally reaching my dream of sub 10.” Meanwhile the former world and Olympic 200m and 400m champion Michael Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Sub 10, sub 20, sub 44. That’s crazy. Great things could be ahead.”

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So fast forward to August 2016 and the Rio Olympics and we shouldn’t have been surprised to see Van Niekierk not only winning the 400m gold but also smashing Michael Johnson’s world record that had stood for 17 years. The BBC reports  about not only the terrific events on track with Van Niekierk race from lane 8 wowing athletes and spectators, but also about how Van Niekierk is coached by Ans Botha, a 74-year-old great-grandmother who has been coaching track and field since the 1960s. His mum Odessa was a talented athlete who competed at national level but was barred from international events under South Africa’s apartheid regime of racial segregation, which did not end until 1994. His cousin, Cheslin Kolbe, also competed in Rio as part of the bronze-medal winning South African sevens rugby team.

Interviewed after his blisteringly fast 400m Gold medal win Van Niekierk said: “I believed I could get the world record. I’ve dreamed of this medal forever,” said Van Niekerk. “I am blessed.”

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He often refers to his faith in God during interviews and is a devout Christian who attributed Saturday’s success to his religion, “I am really just blessed and thankful to the Lord for this opportunity.” When interviewed before Rio about his expectations he said, ‘I always want more but it’s no use me going on my knees every race and saying “God take over and control my race”. I’ll be happy with whatever comes my way – I’m so grateful. This is a new competition but I’ll put my best foot forward. We don’t know what time will win, but I hope the time I run is the winning time.” In an interview straight after his win he said that he kneels down and prays every day, but he obviously knows that humans have free will and can’t rely on rewards from God to make things happen.