An Olympic Dream
by Reinhard Kleist – Introduction by Simon Freeman

This story first appeared in issue #9 of Like the Wind

Samia Yusuf Omar was born in Somalia in 1991, the first of six children. Born into poverty and part of one of the country’s minority ethnic groups, Samia had to overcome many barriers on the way to becoming an athlete. Samia trained during a period of civil unrest in Mogadishu and faced harassment from local militants who objected to a Muslim woman participating in sporting activities. Despite all this disruption, which meant that she couldn’t train consistently, Samia took part in the 100m at the 2008 African Championships. She was only 16 years old at the time. Soon after, Samia represented Somalia in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, setting a personal best of 32.16s in the 200m, finishing last while the crowd roared its approval.

Over the next couple of years, Samia began to train for middle distance events and moved to Ethiopia where she would be able to run more consistently and with better athletes. Her aim was to participate in the 2012 Games in London.

As the London Games approached, Samia left Addis Ababa and first travelled to Sudan and then on to Libya. In Libya she tried to get a place on a boat, making the journey across the Mediterranean to Italy. The journey was against her mother’s wishes, but Samia was determined. Her boat ran out of fuel in the middle of the crossing. During a rescue attempt by an Italian naval vessel, Samia and several others ended up in the water and drowned. She was 21 years old.

Reinhard Kleist was so moved by Samia’s story that he wrote a graphic novel so that her courage and determination could be seen by people around the world. This is the start of the story of Samia Yusuf Omar.

Reinhard Kleist was born in 1970 near Cologne. After graduating from the School of Graphic Art and Design in Münster, he moved to Berlin, where he has lived and worked as a freelance comics artist and illustrator ever since.

Kleist’s books have been translated into many languages and have received several prizes. His graphic novel Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness won both Eisner and Harvey awards, as well as receiving the Max und Moritz Prize for the Best German-language Comic. With The Boxer, Kleist became the first cartoonist to receive the German Youth Literature Award.

An Olympic Dream was serialised in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung before being published, with some revisions, as a graphic novel.

Reinhard Kleist’s An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yusuf Omar is published by SelfMadeHero

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