OPINION: What makes a winner?

What makes a champion? It isn’t talent. It isn’t even being the best of the best. Real winners in life are those who have the courage to see the impossible. They are the people who overcome and persevere through all adversity. They learn from their mistakes, and no matter what, they never give up on their dreams. A true champion has a unique, focused vision. Vision is something I have experienced within my lifetime.

Inline figure skating in a country where women are not only underrepresented in sports, but even treated unequally as their male counterparts, is in many circumstances unachievable. But I never approached figure skating with such a mentality, I simply saw skating with hijab as an opportunity to achieve the unimaginable and see my dreams become reality.

Dreams, as I learned rather quickly, do not just happen by themselves, but rather required dedication and courage. When I began skating competitively, I had to first convince the government officials to allow me to compete on a national level. This was a task that required courage, as they viewed figure skating as an anti-Islamic sport where girls dance in front of a male audience, and they think if we lift our legs or do any jumps, we will be attracting guys therefore it was banned in public places.

After a several years of back and forth writing letters to government officials, I finally persuaded them to allow women skaters skating in public. However, we were only allowed to do “walk skating” around the rink without doing any jumps or spins. After a while, we started doing some jumps in times when not a lot of people were present at the rink. As two of us were skating, people became amazed by how well we could do all these movements even though Hijab makes it way harder for us. With great support of people in establishing this sport in our country, we finally became successful in convincing the government officials to let two of us women figure skaters from Iran compete in the world championships.

Preparing for the world competitions wasn’t easy, but it taught me the important values which I live by today.

For months, I practiced for hours and hours everyday, and these endless hours of hard work taught me the true meaning of commitment.

Strength training taught me self-discipline. My first Loop taught me perseverance. My first Spiral taught me balance, in the most literal sense of the word. My first injury taught me to deal with physical and emotional pain, but it also taught me how to heal. My fellow skaters taught me the meaning of human compassion beyond the typical definition.

Getting up at 4:30 am six days a week, eating lunch on the way to the rink, staying up till 2:00 am doing homework were all worth it to become a gold medalist inline figure skater in Iran and 13th in the world.