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What Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa risked with his Olympic protest.

Feyisa Lilesa used his global platform to call for an end to oppression.

Just as the Rio Olympics were coming to a close after two weeks of memorable moments, one athlete's political protest may go down as the most historically significant of them all.

It's not soon that anyone will forget the performances of Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, or Michael Phelps. Nor will the Olympic firsts for countries like Kosovo and Fiji become diminished victories lost to time. The same goes for the inspiring display of sportsmanship between New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin and the U.S.'s Abbey D'Agostino.

It's the action that Feyisa Lilesa, an Ethiopian runner, took that may have the largest impact outside the sporting world.


Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images.

During Sunday's men's marathon, as Lilesa crossed the finish line, he held his arms crossed over his head. For much of the audience, this symbol likely didn't mean much. For the men and women of his home country, however, it was a rallying cry.

In Ethiopia, the sign made by Lilesa is a show of solidarity for the Oromo people, the country's largest ethnic group, of which Lilesa is a member.

Lilesa's protest against the Ethiopian government's crackdown on political dissent. Photo by Oliver Morin/AFP/Getty Images.

His protest was meant to draw attention to some of the atrocities being committed against the Oromo by the Ethiopian government.

Since November 2015, an estimated 400 Oromo have been killed by the Ethiopian government. Many more have been injured or arrested.

Human Rights Watch issued a report in June detailing the state-sanctioned atrocities in Ethiopia, which stemmed from last year's decision by the government to seize a section of Ginchi, a town roughly 50 miles southwest of the country's capital.

What was a forest and football field would be razed in favor of a government-sponsored investment project. In response, the Oromo people rose up in protest, which was followed by swift violence.

Photo by Gulshan Khan/AFP/Getty Images.

By participating in such a high-profile act of protest at the Olympics, Lilesa's life may now be in danger.

"If I go back to Ethiopia, the government will kill me," he told reporters after the race. "If not, they will charge me. After that, if they not charge, they will block in the airport in immigration. I want to move to another country and try to go to another country."

He hopes that he can obtain a visa to stay in Brazil and eventually find passage to Kenya or the U.S.

Lilesa, gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, and bronze medallist Galen Rupp of the U.S. Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images.

Whether or not you're an expert on the oppression facing the Oromo people or the situation in Ethiopia, a man risked his life to draw attention to this issue.

Lilesa could have run the race, accepted his silver medal, and returned home hoping that his status as a sports hero would provide him relative safety. But for the sake of his people, he took action. If his action doesn't bring attention to what is seemingly a horrific abuse of human rights, is it all for naught?

Hopefully, this action, performed before a global audience, will inspire support for his cause.

As for what needs to happen in Ethiopia, HRW has some strong suggestions:

"Ethiopia’s brutal crackdown also warrants a much stronger, united response from the international community. While the European Parliament has passed a strong resolution condemning the crackdown and another resolution has been introduced in the United States Senate, these are exceptions in an otherwise severely muted international response to the crackdown in Oromia. Ethiopian repression poses a serious threat to the country’s long-term stability and economic ambitions. Concerted international pressure on the Ethiopian government to support a credible and independent investigation is essential. Given that a national process is unlikely to be viewed as sufficiently independent of the government, the inquiry should have an international component. Finally, Ethiopia’s international development partners should also reassess their development programming in Oromia to ensure that aid is not being used – directly, indirectly or inadvertently – to facilitate the forced displacement of populations in violation of Ethiopian and international law."

Additionally, HRW urges the country to drop charges against detained protesters, support an independent and transparent investigation into the government's use of force, prosecute those responsible for abuse, and work to restore trust between the Oromo people and the government.

Photo by Oliver Morin/AFP/Getty Images.

You can help ensure that Lilesa's message doesn't go unheard.

You can learn more about what's happening in Ethiopia; you can share your findings; you can write your representatives in Congress to let them know this matters to you. You can help ensure that his actions weren't in vain.

Turns out, you don't have to be an athlete to break records in Rio during the Olympics.

Eduardo Kobra. Photo by Christophe Simone/Getty Images.

World-renowned street artist Eduardo Kobra may soon break one of his own with the 30,000-square-foot mural he painted on the Olympic Boulevard in Rio.


All you have to do is see a part of it to know why it's such a feat:

Part of Kobra's mural in Rio. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

It's so big, the whole thing won't even fit in one photo.

The mural is about 50 feet tall and 620 feet long, and it took Kobra three months to complete.

GIF via Emerson Oliveira/YouTube.

It's called "Etnias," which is Portuguese for "ethnicities" — a fitting title considering the multicultural event it's honoring.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

“We’re living through a very confusing time with a lot of conflict. I wanted to show that everyone is united,” Kobra told Rio2016 News.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

He achieved this unifying effect by beautifully painting the faces of indigenous people from five continents around the world on the building's facade.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Now it looks like Kobra will snag a much-sought accolade for his hard work: a world record for the largest mural painted by one artist.

Kobra painting "Etnias." Photo by Christophe Simone/Getty Images.

Kobra had assistance from four guest artists to complete the mural, but if his work makes the grade, the mural will surpass the current record holder — Mexican artist Ernesto Rocha's mural — by over 5,505 square feet. That's almost double the size, people. This guy is in it to win it.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

You might recognize Kobra's signature style if you've visited one of 20 countries where his murals appear, including the U.S., Russia, the U.K., Brazil, Japan, Switzerland, France, Greece, and Italy.

Kobra got his start painting murals for the police ... after they arrested him.

Kobra grew up in Sao Paulo but loved graffiti far more than going to class. After getting expelled, he was arrested for vandalizing property, but the judge was so impressed with his work that he sentenced him to continue it on the wall of the police station.

You know what they say: From humble beginnings come great things. Kobra is no exception.

💫

A photo posted by Eduardo Kobra 🇧🇷 (@kobrastreetart) on

Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Mural em Andamento em Tokyo / Work in Progress Tokyo #kobra #eduardokobra #Tokyo #riodejaneiro #rio

A photo posted by Eduardo Kobra 🇧🇷 (@kobrastreetart) on

Kobra's murals bring vibrant life wherever they appear. As such, his mural in Rio is the perfect complement to the Olympic walkway, where visitors from all over the world come together to cheer on their athletes.

Whether it breaks the record or not, Kobra's unifying artwork has already earned bragging rights.

Check out a video on how the Olympic mural was made here:

​Only a small number of people in the world know what it's like to win an Olympic gold medal.

Michael Phelps knows what it's like. 21 times. Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images.

We watch them win, when it all seems so effortless. We don't see the years of practice, dedication, bruised muscles, broken limbs, progress, setbacks, and triumphs that come before.


What is it like to experience that victory? To experience the rush of absolute certainty that you are — finally, unequivocally — the best in the world at what you do?

Some athletes report feeling "ecstatic." Others describe a sense of relief or disbelief. Some admit feeling lost or depressed after it's over. Others express gratitude for the doors that swung open for them after the win.  Still others describe a newfound responsibility to fans and their country.

None of that matters in the few seconds after they realize they are champions, as these 19 glorious, heart-stopping shots of athletes experiencing that exact moment from Rio show:

1. Eric Murray and Hamish Bond of New Zealand after winning the men's pair rowing final.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images.

2. Mireia Belmonte García of Spain earning her first gold after a nail-biting women's 200-meter butterfly.

Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images.

3. Ding Ning of China celebrating her women's singles table tennis victory.

Photo by Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images.

4. Kyle Chalmers of Australia after nailing the men's 100-meter freestyle.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images.

5. Áron Szilágyi of Hungary after pulling down gold in men's individual saber.

Photo by Laurent Kalfala/AFP/Getty Images.

6. Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan leaping out of the pool after his men's 200-meter breaststroke win.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images.

7. Jack Laugher and Chris Mears of Great Britain letting it out after their men's synchronized diving victory.

Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images.

8. Kōhei Uchimura of Japan after winning the men's gymnastics individual all-around.

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

9. Joseph Clarke of Great Britain after dominating the kayak men's final.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

10. Mashu Baker of Japan after winning the final bout of the men's 90-kilogram judo event.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

11. Michael Phelps of the United States adding to his historic tally in the men's 200-meter butterfly.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.

12. Sangyoung Park of South Korea crushing the men's epee individual competition.

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images.

13. The United States men's swimming team racking up another 4x200 freestyle relay win.

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

14. Katie Ledecky of the United States after edging out her competitors in the women's 200-meter freestyle.

Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images.

15. Rafaela Silva of Brazil falling to her knees after slaying the women's 57-kilogram judo final.

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images.

16. Katinka Hosszú of Hungary going wild after her glorious women's 200-meter individual medley win.

Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images.

17. Yana Egorian of Russia savoring her epic, come-from-behind victory in women's individual saber.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

18. Yang Sun of China realizing he'll be taking home gold in the men's 200-meter freestyle.

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images.

19. Simone Biles and Aly Raisman of the United States embracing after leading the women's gymnastics team to a victory in the team final.

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

Congratulations to the champions. The hard work paid off, and the hard part is done.

Here's to many more victories — large and small — ahead.

Most Shared

11 reasons to love Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first U.S. Olympian to compete in a hijab.

She loves Ellen DeGeneres, she's got Ramadan jokes, and she's making history for Team USA.

Meet Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American Olympian making history in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

She's a fencer, and she's damn good at it.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.


Muhammad, a proud black Muslim from New Jersey, is the first athlete to compete on Team USA while wearing a hijab.

That's right: Before Muhammad, no American Olympiannone! — has rocked a hijab while reppin' the red, white, and blue. This fact, in and of itself, makes her pretty cool. But that's hardly the half of it.

Here are nine reasons to justify your love for Muhammad while she's killing it in Brazil:

1. Muhammad runs with the coolest squad in Rio.

And she's not afraid to flaunt it (just a little bit).

2. She totally schooled Stephen Colbert in fencing on national television and has zero regrets about it.

Who else can say they did that?

3. She loves wearing the hijab because it's a big part of who she is.

"The hijab is very much a part of who I am and definitely helps me in my relationship with God and with my own spirituality," she explained to the BBC. "It is a personal choice and a personal relationship you have with God."

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Time.

"Wearing the hijab is a reminder to myself, in a society that is not predominantly Muslim, of being aware of your own religion. Being in sport, it is part of my journey and as an individual, the hijab has always felt right for me. ... It is not forced upon women, especially in the U.S., and is a conscious decision that I am making."

4. She will speak out about politics — because rhetoric from powerful people has real-life consequences.

“I think his words are very dangerous,” she told CNN of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's anti-Muslim platform. “When these types of comments are made, no one thinks about how they really affect people. I’m African-American. I don’t have another home to go to. My family was born here. I was born here. I’ve grown up in Jersey. All my family’s from Jersey. It’s like, well, where do we go?”

5. She's happy to be a trailblazing role model — not just for little girls, but for little boys, too.

"While so many boys find inspiration in sports from men, I'm happy to know my nephew has my sister Faizah and I to look up to," she wrote on Facebook after qualifying for the Olympics. "I wanted to qualify not just for myself, but for him."

After stepping off the podium in February and realizing my life long dream of qualifying for the United States Olympic...

Posted by Ibtihaj Muhammad on Wednesday, May 25, 2016

6. She's cool enough to meet the president (who also knows a thing or two about making history, mind you).

7. She's never let the haters hold her back, and she's not about to start now.

“I just remember being ostracized and being told that there were things that I couldn’t do because I was black, or there were things I couldn’t do because I was Muslim, or there were limitations because I was a girl," she said. "Throughout my entire life I feel like I've tried to combat these stereotypes."

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

8. Muhammad wins extra points for being just as infatuated with Ellen DeGeneres as the rest of us.

"I am so obsessed with you," she said on Ellen's show in June. "I'm so excited to be here. You're such a role model."

Catch me on the Ellen DeGeneres Show today 3:00PM EST on NBC!! (check your local listings)

Posted by Ibtihaj Muhammad on Monday, June 13, 2016

9. She's got Ramadan jokes.

And not every Olympic fencer has Ramadan jokes.

(Yeah, I'd be tired, too, if I had to be on my A-game during a religious holiday where fasting all day is required.)

10. Muhammad's mom got her into fencing for the most practical of reasons: the uniform.

Other sports required Muhammad to wear specially tailored uniforms that would cover her head, legs, and arms. As a kid, Muhammad did not enjoy sticking out among her teammates, who wore shorts, T-shirts, or leotards.

So fencing, with its high-coverage uniform, seemed like the answer.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Image.

"My mom just so happened to discover fencing," Muhammad told CNN. "She was driving past a local high school and saw kids with what she thought was like, a helmet and like, long pants and long jacket. She was like, 'I don't know what it is, but I want you to try it.'"

11. She has many stereotype-busting friends as well, and she loves giving them shoutouts.

"These are the top fencers in United States and among the best in the world," she captioned a photo of herself and other black fencers during Black History Month. "I'm thankful for my United States teammates who continue to make strides in the sport of fencing, not only for themselves, but for all of us who have ever been judged for the color of our skin."

It's Black History Month and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the growing history a few us are living everyday....

Posted by Ibtihaj Muhammad on Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Every athlete in Rio deserves our praise, no doubt.

But when a history-making athlete overcomes racism, religious bigotry, and sexism to make it onto that Olympic stage in a sport where few people share a story similar to hers?

That sort of perseverance is exactly what being on Team USA is all about.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.