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When positivity is in short supply…look around you

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Lately, it has seemed that positivity and inspiration have been in short supply. However, in a country like South Africa, one need only look around briefly to find amazing inspirational stories.

When positivity is in short supplyIn fact, someone has created a website listing the “100 Most Inspiring African Youths”, many of which come from South Africa. Kayli Vee Levitan, for example, is the founder of The Street Store, and has become a global sensation. The Street Store is a pop-up clothing store for the poor that has created a dignified way of giving to the less fortunate. 16-year-old inventor Kiara Nirghin is also on the list, with her win of the prestigious Google Prize for using orange peels to develop a cheap super-absorbent material to help soil retain water. And the list goes on.

Perhaps less inspirational (at least in the traditional sense), but no less remarkable is the announcement that South Africa will be participating in the Winter Olympics. Downhill skier Connor Wilson will be the lone South African representative at the Games, forming part of a small African contingent.

The 21-year-old athlete from Johannesburg was confirmed as the one-man national team this week. After finishing 54th in the giant slalom and 71st in the slalom event at last year’s World Ski Championships in St Moritz, he will be competing in both alpine skiing disciplines at the Games.

Wilson will not be the first single individual to represent South Africa at the Games. Downhill skier Alex Heath was the lone South African representative at Salt Lake City in 2002.

In fact, South Africa has participated in all but one of the Winter Olympics since 1994. That year, in Lillehammer, South Africa was represented by figure skater Dino Quattrocecere and speed skater Cindy Meyer. Four years later, in Nagano, downhill skier Alex Heath made his Olympic debut alongside figure skater Shirene Human.

At the 2006 Turin Games, the South African team included three athletes for the first time. That year, Heath became the first African skier to compete in all five alpine disciplines, while skeleton sledder Tyler Botha finished 21st in his event – the best performance by a South African athlete at the Games. In 2010, South Africa was represented by cross-country skier Oliver Kraas and downhill skier Peter Scott.

At first glance, these athletes and the youths on the 100 most inspiring list have very little in common. What they all share, however, is a determination to change the world by being the best they can be. They are examples of the kind of unwavering individuals this country produces – following in the footsteps of a long line of individuals who overcame the odds to provide inspiration on a global scale.

In unsettled times, a reminder that there is much to be proud of, and a worthwhile future to look forward to, is sometimes necessary. South Africans are surrounded by uplifting stories and amazing individuals – from global icons to neighbours who help each other out. Somehow, these are the narratives that get lost in the political and economic turmoil, and yet, these are the ones that make us proudly South African.

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