Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts

Kosovo Mountaineer Uta Ibrahimi on Climbing, Female Athletes, and the Importance of Community Support

A Q&A with Uta Ibrahimi about her mountaineering life

Uta Ibrahimi after climbing Mount Everest UtaCC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons

This story by Violeta Jonchevska originally appeared on Global Voices on July 28, 2021.

Uta Ibrahimi, an alpinist from Kosovo, is the first ethnic Albanian woman to climb Mount Everest, which she did on 22 May 2017. Afterwards, she climbed ManasluCho-OyuLhotse and Gasherbrum, making her officially the first woman from the Balkans to summit five peaks taller than 8000 meters.

Through her alpinism and media appearances, Uta seeks to raise awareness about nature, the mountains, and human rights, particularly in Kosovo and Albania. Uta is also a Sustainable Development Goals Champion, promoting gender equality, youth empowerment and environmental preservation.

In this interview you will read more about her mountaineering adventures and the challenges she faces.

Global Voices (GV): How did your career in alpinism start? When was your love for mountaineering and climbing born?  

Uta Ibrahimi (UI): I started my hiking activity with professional mountaineers on 22 of May, 2011. Before that I had only practiced short hikes with my family.

Thanks to the guides, who are husband and wife, that was the day I realized that women and girls can be great mountaineers. Later on, I  met many strong and tough women who shared a common passion for the mountains and blew my mind with their power.

Later, in 2015, after climbing Mont Blanc, the love of mountains became my biggest passion. I decided to leave my 12-year career in marketing and a job at one of the most famous agencies in Kosovo, only to get closer to land and sky, and my inner self.

Uta Ibrahimi
Uta Ibrahimi
LiridonCC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons

GV: How did you prepare to climb Mount Everest? How did it feel to be the first person from your country on top of the world?

UI:  My biggest experience in mountaineering was definitely in 2016 in the Himalayas, where I had gone for training in high altitudes.

I met a lot of people, learned a lot about climbing high mountains, and most importantly I realized I was physically and mentally prepared to test myself and realize my dream.

As soon as I came back in Kosovo, I started my project to make it work. Everything was harder from what I expected it to be, be it the physical challenges, psychological preparation and the financial aspect.

In order to climb high dangerous mountains, what you need most is the love and moral support of your community. I didn’t receive that in the very beginning, mainly coming from a deep concern of these people about what could happen to me in these altitudes. I also encountered  lack of faith in the power of women, even though a lot of women had already proven themselves to be equal with men in this sport.

The more one climbs the peaks of the world, the more one needs the love of the people—the moral support.

Reaching the top of the world remains one of the biggest accomplishments in my life, and one of the best feelings in my entire life. To witness the sunrise in 8000+ meters, surrounded by absolute silence is like being born for the second time, but this time fully aware and at peace, filled with positivity and joy.

On the other hand, I am very happy that with all the hard work I achieved something for myself and my country. I made my nation proud by waving the Albanian and Kosovo flags for the first time at the top of the world, becoming the first Albanian woman to summit Mount Everest.

After the summit on Everest, I have started the project on climbing the 14 highest mountains in the world—there are only 4 women in the world that have summited till now. I have now climbed 6 of them, by becoming the only girl from the Balkan with 6 summits on 8000 meters peak, and waving Albanian and Kosovo flag for the first time on each. Now, I am on preparation to climb the 8 remaining peaks, all the time training and working for the funding my expedition.

GV: One of your missions is to raise awareness of nature, mountains and environmental protection; what activities do you undertake in that field?

UI:  To participate in projects that embrace the values of my activism as an SDG champion, supported by both the public and private sector, I have founded an NGO called Utalaya Foundation. Through our foundation we target different audiences, mainly focusing on marginalized groups in Kosovo such as: women, minority communities, children and youth, children with special needs, youth from rural areas etc.

We try to engage this audience as much as possible in projects that raise awareness on environmental protection.

For instance, recently we had a great cooperation with the municipality of Prishtina, engaging children with autism and Down syndrome, their caretakers and their parents with recreational and environmentally educational activities in the Bear Sanctuary in Prishtina-Germia Hill. We combined learning on importance of preserving nature and biodiversity with yoga, meditation, hiking and games that enhance their cognitive, behavioral and motor skills with different experts such as speech therapists, artists, instructors etc.

I very often participate voluntarily in calls from different organizations to be their voice of campaigns regarding women empowerment, environmental protection, human rights, children rights etc.

We are currently starting an awareness campaign with the World Wide Fund for Nature advocating the preservation of the Sharr Mountains National Park in Kosovo.

We are also going to take part in a project supported by the ministry of culture, youth and sports to engage the youth from rural areas to consciously use the natural resources and cherish the natural blessings our country offers us. 

So gender equality is not a strategy, it’s a moral value, it’s a lifestyle and obligation we must all apply.

GV: As an advocate for gender equality, can you describe what kind of strategy you use to implement this important commitment?

UI:  I have always been blessed to be surrounded by wonderful and inspiring women, starting from my mom, sisters, friends, co-workers and work partners, therefore I’ve always found joy in creating something together with women.

It’s not like I use a strategy; gender advocacy has become an unshakable part of my character since a very young age, and I try to do everything I can to empower women, such as hiring them in my hiking company, or foundation. In different projects I always engage women in activities that empower them and remove all stigma or prejudice created from our society.

Vulnerable groups are the main target and value of our foundation, and clearly women and girls do not exercise all their rights in Kosovo. Yet, hopefully with engagement, empowerment and advocacy this will change, and it has already started to change. So gender equality is not a strategy, it’s a moral value, it’s a lifestyle and obligation we must all apply.

GV: Finally, do you have any recommendations for young climbers and mountaineers, things they should pay special attention to, so they can be safe on the mountain?

UI:  Youngsters, but also other age groups, should realize that it is never too late to start practicing outdoor sports and activities such as mountaineering or alpinism. The most important thing and message from me to my fellow alpinists is to stay safe in the mountains and not damage nature. A good mountaineer and alpinist is someone who protects and preserves nature at all cost. The fulfilment we take from mother earth has to be repaid with deep care and compassion.


This article is republished from Global Voices under a Creative Commons license.
Global Voices is an international community of writers, translators, academics, and human rights activists leveraging the power of the internet to build understanding across borders.

Tokyo 2020: How the Paralympics Have Evolved From Rehabilitation to Spectacle

By Christopher Brown - August 24, 2021

This article was originally published in  The Conversation

In the 57 years since Tokyo first hosted the Paralympic Games, the event – and the sports it comprises - have changed beyond recognition. The Tokyo 1964 Games marked the first time the word “paralympic” was used.

At the time, the term described 21 countries represented by 378 athletes, a small minority (75) of whom were female. The events comprised nine sports, but only individuals with spinal cord injuries were eligible to compete.

As the 2020 Paralympics open, those numbers are almost incomparably larger. This year’s teams hail from approximately 160 nations. They comprise approximately 4,400 athletes, with female participants accounting for a record 40.5% of the total delegation. Athletes will compete across 22 sports. And new disciplines continue to be added. Badminton and taekwondo make their Paralympic debuts this year.

Shaped by evolving societal attitudes towards physical and mental impairment, the Paralympics have gone from championing rehabilitation to being the second biggest mega-event in the international sports calendar. This growth has come with international recognition and heightened media coverage. Big questions about the event’s core purpose, however, persist.

Classification of impairment groups

The Paralympics have grown commensurate to the number of competing nations and the variety of eligible sports and impairments. Initially founded as a means of rehabilitating soldiers after the second world war, the earliest events focused on athletes with spinal chord injuries, competing in wheelchair-based sports such as archery and snooker.

In 1976, in a bid to make the Games a multi-disability sporting event, the range of eligible groups was expanded to include amputees and visually impaired athletes. The subsequent Paralympics in 1980 further expanded to include athletes with cerebral palsy, as well as a category for “les autres” (the others), a catchall classification for athletes with locomotor impairments.

Athletes with intellectual disabilities, meanwhile, were officially included for the first time at Atlanta 1996. This decision was revoked after the Sydney 2000 Summer Games, when ten members of the men’s Spanish basketball team were found to have faked having an impairment. This resulted in a blanket ban.

Following the implementation of a robust and rigorous procedure for detecting and classifying athletes with intellectual disabilities, the ban was finally lifted for London 2012. Ultimately, though, innocent athletes with intellectual disabilities had been penalised over several Games because of cheating by some able-bodied individuals.

Though it has enabled the participation of athletes with a range of impairments, the functional classification system remains one of the most contentious issues in Paralympic sport. There are suggestions that the system is inconsistent and open to corruption.

This official recognition has contributed to the Paralympics being seen as a legitimate sporting event.

International coordination

The establishment in 1989 of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) provided the event with a centrally coordinated voice and helped to foster a close working relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In 2001, this resulted in an agreement between the IOC and IPC which formalised the “one city, one bid” philosophy that mandates every host city to stage both the Olympics and the Paralympics.

This official recognition has contributed to the Paralympics being seen as a legitimate sporting event. Over the past ten to 20 years, in particular, the focus has been on sporting prowess and achievement. The London 2012 Paralympics was perhaps the pinnacle of this. The Games featured thousands of athletes comprehensively demonstrating Paralympic sporting excellence to consistently sold-out venues and on a global stage.

Conversely, some argue the relationship between the IOC and the IPC has the potential to marginalise athletes with more complex impairments and high support needs. They argue that this is done in an attempt to legitimise the event for a non-disabled audience. Athletes with milder impairments and those with technological enhancements, including running blades – which research has termed the cyborgification of Paralympic bodies – have been prioritised. Critics worry the Paralympic movement, in its determination to produce a marketable product, is shunning the athletes who are central to the event’s foundational ethos and spirit: those with severe impairments.

Global coverage

In 1964, media coverage was largely limited to the host nation. Today, Paralympic events draw significant global broadcast numbers. The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were the most viewed in history with a cumulative audience of 4.1 billion.

It is anticipated that Tokyo 2020 will claim this mantle. In the UK, Channel 4 will provide more than 300 hours of Paralympic coverage, the most ever by a UK broadcaster.

That said, media coverage, in terms of quality and quantity, still lags behind the Olympics. Paralympians have often been portrayed in passive rather than active poses, with a focus on the impairment rather than the athlete’s sporting ability. Hosting the Games may increase the amount and quality of coverage in the host nation. This is not always replicated for competitors from other nations.

The modern Paralympics are unrecognisable from the last time Tokyo hosted the Games, in 1964. But with this growth have come challenges. How can the Paralympic movement ensure a robust and trusted classification system fair to all impairment groups it represents? Is the Paralympics’ stated mission at odds with the current trajectory of the event?

Ultimately, should athletes with impairments cease to be known as Paralympians and simply be Olympians, part of an inclusive Olympics? Resolving these issues may yet create another paradigm shift in the makeup of the Paralympic Games.


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. The Conversation is a nonprofit organization working for the public good through fact and research based journalism.
The Conversation

Supreme Court Delivers a Victory for Student Athletes Against the NCAA.

More free-market principles may soon find their way into college sports.

BY Hannah Cox - August 23, 2021

This article was originally published by the  Foundation for Economic Education

Two-thirds of Americans now say they believe student athletes should be able to profit off their names and likeness. And 51 percent of those go even further, stating that they should be paid for their labor above the cost of free tuition and board.

But schools have been slow to respond, and rules by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have a lot to do with that. The NCAA prohibits schools from competing for student talent by offering better benefits — a rule that the US Supreme Court unanimously struck down this week.

While the case was not broad enough to address issues surrounding student pay and compensation, the justices did rule that the NCAA must allow schools to recruit athletes by offering additional benefits tied to their education.

What does that look like? Scholarships for graduate or vocational programs, technology equipment, study abroad programs, internships, and at times, small cash rewards for those who excel in the classroom.

The move follows a wave of laws at the state level that are poised to allow student athletes to make endorsement deals, and comes as the top athletic conferences and schools within them are preparing to meet to handle such developments.

“Traditions alone cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated,”

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in the decision, and in it he noted that, as The Wall Street Journal reported, “while the NCAA is entitled to some leeway to administer the college-sports landscape, that didn’t mean the association enjoyed de facto immunity from the Sherman Act, the central federal law barring anticompetitive conduct…”

But Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled there could be more legal problems for the NCAA ahead, writing in a concurring opinion that the remaining rules limiting compensation “raise serious questions under the antitrust laws.”

“Traditions alone cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. “Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate.”

Though the current ruling does not go as far as many wish it to, it could, as the Journal explains, “have a wide impact because it dealt a considerable legal blow to the NCAA’s ability to use amateurism as a shield against efforts by athletes to share in the successes of a multibillion-dollar industry built on their labor.”

The NCAA’s Rules Are an Affront to the American Dream

The athletes have sympathetic supporters among both Democrats and Republicans, who also may choose to take on legislation to address the issue. It seems wide swaths of the American public still believe people should be paid for their labor and that they should be able to negotiate their pay in a free market—and thank God for that. These are important principles for a free society.

In a free market, when a person excels in their work, competition would drive their salaries up. To remove this opportunity for growth is an attack on the American Dream and frankly, unethical.

In fact, government interventions into the market have a long history of creating scenarios with racial inequalities.

Compounding the ickiness factor of this entire scenario is the racial component present in many of the league's dynamics. A large percentage of student athletes are black, and the programs that bring in the most revenue for schools (traditionally basketball and football) are predominantly led by black athletes. The revenue made from their work is used to fund programs and scholarships for lesser-watched sports, like golf or swimming—which have higher participation rates of white students. This means that the work of black athletes is not only paying for the school’s administration, but also funding the tuition and scholarships of other students.

Not a good look.

Capitalism Is the Counter to Inequality

It is not uncommon to see anti-competitive and anti-capitalist policies produce racial disparities such as this. In fact, government interventions into the market have a long history of creating scenarios with racial inequalities. Capitalism is actually the solution to such problems as a free market produces equality of opportunity and merit-based rewards.

Milton Friedman once said, “Business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger....Every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself that's a different question. We have to have that tariff to protect us against competition from abroad. We have to have that special provision in the tax code. We have to have that subsidy.”

So, it isn’t surprising in the least that schools wish to shield themselves from competition or that they wish to pay their employees as little as possible. What prevents a business from being able to get away with that is competition in the free market.

Anti-trust policy is highly problematic from a libertarian perspective, and the rights and responsibilities of the NCAA are a murky matter, given its mixed public-private status. But whether this Supreme Court decision was the right call or not, a freer market in college sports would be a more just one.

Hannah Cox

Hannah Cox is the Content Manager and Brand Ambassador for the Foundation for Economic Education.

This article was originally published by the  Foundation for Economic Education and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Watch: Cyclist Hits Olympic-Size Medical Bills After Crash

“CBS This Morning,” in partnership with KHN and NPR, interviews Phil Gaimon, a cyclist who had hoped to be in Tokyo next week as a competitor in the track events on the USA Cycling national team. Instead, a crash on the velodrome track in Pennsylvania in 2019 ended his Olympic dream and left him with huge medical bills — even after his two insurance policies paid portions of the treatment. KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal said Gaimon hit three health care land mines: out-of-network hospitals, out-of-state care and gold-plated charges from the hospitals. Two years after the crash, Gaimon is still fielding calls from collection agencies.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.


This story can be republished for free (details).

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Kami Rita Sherpa Breaks Record as He Climbs Mount Everest for the 24th Time

Image courtesy of Seven Summit Treks Pvt. Ltd. Used with permission.
Broke his own record for most summits on Mount Everest

Written by Sanjib Chaudhary - May 28, 2019
Original story first published at Global Voices

Climbing Mount Everest is on every adrenaline junkie’s wishlist, but Everest summiteer Kami Rita Sherpa has checked this off his list a record amount of times. Defying all odds, he climbed the world’s highest peak twice in a week this year – earlier on 15 May and again on 21 May 2019 – making his number of Everest ascents 24.
Seven Summit Treks, the company he works with, announced on Facebook:
21 May 2019 !
24th Ascents of Mt Everest 8848m by Kami Rita Sherpa, HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR SENIOR GUIDE.
This morning 6:30 AM Kami Rita climbed the Mt Everest for 24 times (2nd Ascents of this season) and broke his own record of 23rd Ascents! […]
According to the Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, MD at Seven Summit Treks, this morning at 6:30 AM Kami Rita climbed the highest peak via South Side with A TEAM OF INDIAN POLICE. “Guiding a team of Indian Police Mt Everest Expedition 2019 this morning Kami Rita Sherpa climbed Mt Everest for 24 times; he made the entire country proud, this is a golden mark in the history of mountaineering🇳🇵 ” Sherpa added.
Kami Rita belongs to the Sherpa ethnic group native to the most mountainous regions of Nepal and the Himalayas. Many Sherpas are good mountaineers and experts in their local area and they have long been serving as professional guides to foreign mountaineers who want to brave the extreme altitudes.

Kami Rita hails from Thame village in Nepal’s Solukhumbu District, known for its famous climbers. Thame has produced famous climbers including Apa Sherpa (aka Super Sherpa) who held the previous record of most Mount Everest summits and Ang Rita Sherpa who has climbed Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen that has earned him the sobriquet ‘The Snow Leopard’.

Kami Rita climbed Everest on 13 May 1994 for the first time and has also climbed K2 and Lhotse one time each, Manaslu twice and Cho Oyu eight times, totalling 36 ascents of peaks over 8,000m according to Seven Summit Treks.

After climbing Everest so many times, Kami Rita has seen the visible effects of climate change on Everest. Speaking to BBC Nepali earlier this year, Kami Rita said:
पहिले १२/१३ वटा भर्याङ चढ्नुपर्थ्यो भने अहिले तीन-चारवटाले पुग्छ। […]
पहिले क्याम्प टूमै कति धेरै हिउँ हुन्थ्यो। अहिले हिमनदी मात्र छ। […] बाल्कोनीभन्दा माथि कम्मरसम्म हिउँ हुन्थ्यो अहिले ढुङ्गामात्र देखिन्छ।
Earlier we had to climb 12-13 ladders [at Kumbu Icefall] but we can do with 3-4 these days. […]
In earlier days Camp 2 used to see a lot of snow. Now there’s only a glacier. […] Above Balcony there used to be snow up to hips, now you see only rocks.
Around 300 climbers have died on Everest and only a few dead bodies have been brought down. Now, the melting of ice in Everest is exposing the dead bodies buried in the snow.

A recent report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development states that the Himalayas will lose more than one-third of their ice by the end of the century. In addition, many climbers leave tents, climbing equipment, gas canisters and human poop, making Everest a literal dumping site. However, climbing Everest is a big business with hundreds of aspirants seeking the help of Sherpa guides to reach the summit.

Like every other year, new records have already been made with South Africa’s Saray N’ Kusi Khumalo becoming the first black African woman to successfully climb Everest. And some climbers have died and have gone missing on Mount Everest this year too. But the craze of climbing Everest, it seems, will never subside.

 Originally published, here, by Sanjib Chaudhary under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license.

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