Mohamed Khawaja may be Libya‘s best hope at bringing home a medal from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
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Even if he doesn’t succeed in winning one of those three coveted pieces of hardware, simply a strong performance from the 400 meter runner would mean so much more.
For much of 2011, Libya was in a civil war. Its dictator, Muammar Gadhafi, who ruled for over 42 years and actively discouraged sports, was killed while trying to escape from anti-government rebels. Moreover, Black Africans in Libya were often accused of fighting for pro-Gadhafi forces during the civil war and imprisoned throughout the country.
Many Africans were subjected to torture and humiliated for their alleged allegiance to the fallen dictator. Here is a video of Libyan rebels forcing jailed Africans to eat the Gadhafi-era Libyan flag.
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Khawaja told BBC that he barely had time to train last year. Given that he could have easily been mistaken for a Gadhafi sympathizer or died from shrapnel, it is understandable that his time and attention were focused elsewhere.
Given all of this, an impressive showing from Khawaja would certainly be a coup. He ran a 44.98 in the 400 meters at the African Championships in Kenya; that time would have been a fifth-place finish at the 2008 Beijing Games. Besides bringing home a medal, Khawaja’s dark skin could help ease some of the racial strife that many dark skin Africans felt so helpless against during the war.
This brotha may not bring home the gold, but let us hope his performance can help bring his nation some much needed joy and unity.
That is the real prize.