News

    Olympic Games Showcase Amateur Athletes

    The upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing will feature over 300 sporting events. While many events like swimming and basketball are dominated by professional athletes, the games still showcase amateur athletes. These competitors will probably never become rich or famous. They must balance work and training, and they struggle to pay for travel and other expenses. Still they persist for the chance to pursue the Olympic dream. The public identifies with these scrappy idealists. VOA's Brian Padden has the story, with addtional reporting by Scott Bobb in Johannesburg, Rory Byrne in Phnom Penh, and Suli Yi in Washington. (Part 4 of 5)

    South Africa's Marlon August is close to achieving his life-long dream to compete in the Olympics. "The best would be to get a medal at the Olympics," said August.

    He recently qualified for his country's Olympic Judo team. To achieve that, he trained, every day, before and after work as an office assistant. He says his employer has supported his dream. "I work for my mother, who is very understanding," said August. "She has known my dreams since I was very young, so she supports me. She pays me enough just to pay my bills. The rest I do by myself."

    Steve Roush is chief of sports performance with the U.S. Olympic Committee. He has been involved with the Olympics for over 20 years. He says he sees ordinary people, time and again, dedicating their lives to winning a place on an Olympic team.  

    "I think it's the purity of the Olympics that changes people's mindset," he said. "I also think there is a thing that I refer to as Olympic fever. And when you catch that, it's very hard to do anything but pursue it."

    But Olympic fever is not always enough. Cambodian marathon runner Hem Bun Ping receives some government support, approximately $30 a month. But he says he cannot afford the diet he needs to compete against professional athletes.

    "I think that I cannot beat the athletes from the other countries," he said. "It's like comparing the sky and the earth, because we lack everything we need. But I will try my best. I don't think I will beat everybody else, but at least I hope to beat my personal best time."

    American Olympic hopeful Sarah Trowbridge is more optimistic. In the early mornings, she and other top American rowers can be found rowing on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. They train there with U.S. national team coach Matt Madigan. "[The] Potomac Boat Club is one of the best, kind of [a] feeder program onto the national team," said Trowbridge. "They have really strong programs, coaches, a lot of good girls, so it's a really a good place to be if you are trying to make the national team."

    Many boat club members support themselves by working for a high-tech mapping company. The head of the company, Sean Gorman, is a one-time national rowing champion. He offers the rowers flexible hours so they can train. Gorman says employing these Olympic hopefuls is a good business decision. "We found the same characteristics that make people successful in rowing at a high level also make them great employees," he said.

    Roush says while the inclusion of professional athletes has not hurt the Olympic games, the general public still favors those who are sacrificing so much - over the professionals.

    "They don't embrace them as they do the canoe kayaker who is making $12,000 a year, and that's all they are making, yet they are able to pay for their training expenses, be able to travel world-wide, raise a family," said Roush. "People just identify with them and feel for them and I think get behind and support them."

    Win or lose, Roush says these amateur athletes, when they compete in Beijing, will inspire a new generation of Olympic hopefuls, going for the gold. 

     

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora