You've probably never heard of Daniah Hagul, but you're about to, because she's awesome. As a swimmer from Libya, Hagul has had to overcome a litany of challenges to pursue her passion.
For starters, Libya is a conservative society still recovering from Muammar Gaddafi's oppressive government. As such, even something as simple as wearing a swimsuit in public is frowned upon for women. In addition, many Libyan public works—like swimming pools—were either dismantled during Gaddafi's rule, or destroyed in the revolution that ousted him. So you can imagine that being a swimmer is not necessarily the easiest dream.
But Hagul was given a shot when her parents moved to Malta, which is now home to a large number of Libyans living in exile. It was there, at the age of 12, that Hagul first started swimming in earnest. And now, just five years later, the 17 year old is set to become the first female swimmer for the Libyan Olympic team in over a decade.
"It's such an honor and a privilege and I can't wait to do my country proud," Hagul said in an interview with the India Times.
"I remember watching the 2012 London Olympics at my grandfather's farm in Azzahra, Libya. I used to watch all the swimming events really closely and thought how wonderful it would be if I could represent Libya at the next Olympics."
But even after proving herself to her homeland, Hagul's challenges continued. The Libyan government has been bankrupted by years of mismanagement and military strife. Financial support is low, even in the best of times, and it's even lower for female athletes like Hagul. So, even though she was invited to join the Libyan National Team in Rio, she was given no financial support to do so. Most of her training and equipment costs have been handled by her parents, but for her travel costs were too much to handle.
In a GoFundMe campaign titled "Help Fund Daniah's Olympic Dream!" the family raised over $7,700 in a single month; enough to get Hagul to the Olympics. After Rio, Hagul hopes to start University so she can pursue a career as an architect. But for now, she has her eyes set on Rio, where she hopes to bring home a medal for her country: the first ever by a Libyan athlete.