Unexpected Friendship and an Unexpected Leader

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In life, there are often places that we are sure to meet people and make friends. Sports, despite its competitive nature, is one of these places. Often times we meet our friends through unusual circumstances. This is how the friendship between Philip Boit, from Kenya, and Bjorn Daehlie, from Norway, formed.

Boit and Daehlie both competed in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Daehlie was the favorite to win, as he is considered the world’s most successful cross-country skier. Boit, on the other hand, was the first Kenyan to compete at the Winter Olympics.

Weather conditions were not in their favor that day, as it rained. Boit, who only first saw snow two years prior to the event, had trouble skiing on wet snow and fell down a lot.

The crowd cheered Boit on, so much so that he said he felt like he was winning a medal– even though he finished last.

Daehlie, though finishing first, waited for 20 minutes in the freezing weather to embrace Boit when he finished the race.

This is how the friendship between Boit and Daehlie began. Boit named his first child after Daehlie, and the two families frequently visit each other. The pair also ski together in charity competitions and trained together in Greenland.

It is great to see that despite their different backgrounds, Boit and Daehlie were able to develop a friendship. Both athletes, however, affected the world in different ways. Bjorn has won more medals (12), and more gold medals (8), than any other winter athlete, and Boit had a major effect on the Kenyans. He came home to a welcome fit for a king. Even though he told them he finished last, they were just proud that he was the only Kenyan there.

He paved the way for more Africans to venture into winter sports. He is considered a pioneer. The fact that he competed at all, makes a difference and inspires other Africans to compete.

On the way to the top, leaders are often encountered with backlash. Instead of focusing on the positive fact that more Africans are venturing into winter sports like the BBC did, the Guardian choose to focus on the negatives. The Guardian referred to Boit as a “wannabe,” competing in a sport he had never seen before. The Guardian also referred to the other Africans that were inspired by Boit as “equally incompetent.”

Are people from different countries expected to only compete in Olympic Games that their country is used to? Africans should stick to the Summer Olympics, and Europeans should stick to the Winter Olympics. We have to stop this racist behavior, because that is what it is at its core. An athlete is an athlete, no matter where they are from. Boit was at a disadvantage, but that did not stop him from getting out there and trying. That is the first step to making an impact, which he did. Instead of focusing on the fact that he lost, we have to realize that a new day is coming where athletes from different backgrounds will compete in the Olympic game of their choice, because they can and because it is the 21st century. It is such a shame that the Guardian let its reporters report with such venom in their key strokes.

This goes to show that you cannot make everybody happy and on the way to the top, you are bound to encounter people who not only don’t have anything useful to say, but that are afraid of change.

Well, Guardian, get ready—because change is coming.

 

 

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