What if making an Olympic team was your ticket … out of your own country?

Feb. 25, 2021 – The Seder-Skier Podcast –

I have always dreamed of being an Olympic athlete. Primary motivations have ranged from hoping that a place on the national basketball team (free throw specialist?) would allow me the chance to chat with Shawn Johnson in 2012 to the more idealistic goal of ensuring a satisfactory closing chapter of approval to my running career if I made it in, say, the marathon. Deep in the recesses of my heart, this goal remains, pushing me out the door on frigid days to ski when I have no business doing so. However, it has been reframed to a certain degree, as well. I’d be happy being a part of the Olympics in a different capacity (coach or journalist – “The Seder-Skier Podcast is coming to you live from Lillehammer! We’ll be speaking to 44 year old Gus Schumacher, who is trying to win his 3rd straight 15k at an Olympics, but first a word from our sponsors – cue Malt-o-Meal commercial), and simply represent the USA at some international competition (Age 70-74 Division Master’s World XC Champs 2060 here we come!).

So, every time an Olympics or World Championships comes around, of any sport, a little piece of me gets jealous of the athletes, the coaches, the trainers, the reporters, the announcers, and everyone else who gets to take part.

 I wish I was there. 

My reasons are perhaps more standard – wide-eyed and bushy tailed, dreamy, lofty, stupid ….whatever words you want to use. What if, however, you were in a position where there was an ulterior motive to making your nation’s team? It was not to wear a jersey with pride and represent a country whose ideals deserve honor, but rather to use it as a disguise. What if the goal of making the trip to an international competition was to make it the last trip from your home country. Ever. 

I’d never even thought of that. Until a little browsing of the results from today’s sprint competition led me on an internet rabbit trail towards learning about the cross country ski teams of some of the nations we don’t typically associate with the sport. Iran for example. 

Here is the article that inspired this post. You should read it. If you can’t, here is the sparknotes version. Iran has had a problem with national team members seeking asylum in the countries hosting international competition. In order to attempt to put a stop to that, National team athletes from Iran have been forced to guarantee a 2.5 billion toman ($104,000) bail to ensure they will not attempt to flee Iran while competing in Germany. The article states, “Their reasons for doing so were myriad, but most revolved around either mandatory hijab or their having been prevented by the Iranian authorities from competing against Israelis abroad.” 

Digest the story. 

Contemplate the narratives you’ve heard the last 14 months about about how “awful” the United States is. 

Remember the incredible freedoms we have. 

Give thanks.

And athletes – the select few who DO get to wear the red, white, and blue in competition and not JUST dream about – revel in the fact that part of your internal motivation to be the best you can be on race day is because you are supported by people back home. A home you are grateful you get to look forward to returning to. 

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