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Medals v Beliefs

Medals v Beliefs

By sports coach UK Coaching Advisor Shanwaz Ajaib

3,000 Muslim Olympians - including GB gold medallist Mo Farah

Did you know that many of the athletes competing in the London 2012 Olympics will be facing a unique dilemma?

This year Ramadan, the Muslim holy month where all adherents to Islam are expected to fast from dawn until dusk started on 20 July 2012 and lasts for 30 days finishing on 18 August. Coincidentally it falls directly within the Olympics which is the first time this has happened since 1980.

So what difference does this make? Well, spare a thought for more than 3,000 Muslim sports stars who will be fasting from 3am to 9pm each day.For many, the question they will be asking themselves is ‘do I miss a few days of fasting in the hope of achieving Olympic glory or do I follow my faith and continue to fast?’

No doubt it will be a difficult choice, with some individuals opting to miss fasting during competition days and making up for the missed days when they return home. There is provision within the Koran to allow individuals who intentionally miss fasting to make up the missed days by fasting at a later date or by giving to charity to feed the poor and homeless.

Whilst for others, it is considered a blessed month so they choose to continue to fast. Once such athlete is Somalia’s 1500m runner Mohamed Mohamed who says “as an athlete it can get difficult, but I am ready to fast and train and to get through this difficult month.”

Coaching Muslim Athletes

Coaches will often find this difficult to deal with as many athletes insist on upholding their religious belief, despite the fact that many of the nations competing have been given special dispensation to miss days of fasting during the Olympics by their religious leaders.

As a coach you are working to ensure your athletes are at the top of their game physically and mentally at just the right moment. For some coaches Ramadan provides a unique challenge in helping athletes stay focussed on their sporting goals. Most coaches believe it will affect an athlete’s performance but it’s not as simple as that, says Professor Ron Maughan, an expert of sporting nutrition who has studied fasting. “Many athletes say they actually play better when they fast, they feel more focused, more in tune with their bodies.” (quoted in the independent – 31/07/12)

The proof will be in the results achieved by those who are fasting. No doubt the cynics will continue to ask ‘could he/she have done better if they were not fasting’ leaving the question open to whether it is medals versus beliefs or medals and beliefs!

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