sultanFrom The Wall Street Journal:

Here’s an obvious but overlooked truth about athletes at the Olympics: Before anything else, they’re athletes. There are astonishing stories of individual perseverance, and obstacles overcome both personal and political, but at each athlete’s core is an undeniable drive to…well, only a lucky few will win, or medal, but every last one of them wants to do something indelible and memorable that makes the experience worth it. They want to do their absolute best. We like to wrap the Olympics up in all kinds of nationalistic and existential meaning, but for an athlete, doing his or her absolute best is pretty much the point of the whole deal.

A couple weeks ago in New York City, I went to go see Faye Sultan, a Kuwaiti swimmer who was training at Asphalt Green, a nonprofit aquatics center on the Upper East Side. It was early morning, and in the pool with Sultan were a scattering of everyday city residents doing casual laps. Sultan was not doing casual laps. Sultan, who is 21 years old, swims the 50 meter freestyle, which is swimming’s equivalent of the 100 meter dash. It’s into the pool, full gas, done.

Four years ago, Sultan had gone to the London Olympics as smiling teenager representing Kuwait—and a true pioneer, the country’s first female swimmer at the games. Now she was going to Rio, and again she would “represent Kuwaiti girls,” as she put it, but she would not get to represent her country. The International Olympic Committee had banned Kuwait for what it considered the government’s interference in the country’s sports federation. Sultan was given clearance to compete—but she would have to do so under the Olympic flag.

“At the end of the day, my identity doesn’t change,” Sultan said that morning. “I’m still a Kuwaiti swimmer. It’s disheartening to not be able to wear gear that has my country’s flag. In a way, it also strips a little bit of my identity.

Read the whole thing. Congrats to Sultan ’16.

Trivia question: Who was the last Eph to compete in the Summer Olympics?

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