The stakes are high this time of the year as Rio2016 kick off. Lots of hopes and dreams are riding on this year’s wins. The national pride of certain countries is at stake at the sporting event as those of us living in African countries stayed up late to watch the opening ceremonies.

Btw did you know that the Olympics started in 776 B.C. in Greece where the first Olympian, Coroebus won the single event, a 192-metre foot-race? In 2016, we’re all about the African women doing us proud at the Olympics. Out of this year’s lot, lets’ focus on seven African sportswomen who we’ll be keeping an eye on as the event unfolds.

Yolande Mabika

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This 28-year-old judoka (a person who practices or is an expert in judo) is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She’ll be participating in this year’s Olympics under that flag.

There’s no shying away from it Yolande has suffered to get to where she is now. She’s slept on the street, and worked as a sweeper and at a textile mill. In 2013, she qualified for the World Judo Championships held in Brazil. She sought asylum in Brazil and started training at the Instituto Reação, a judo school founded by a former Olympic bronze medalist. She is aiming for gold at Rio2016 under the women’s 70kg category.

#MotherlandMogul lesson: Nothing should hold you back the way nothing held Yolande back. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that she gets the gold she’s aiming for.

Vivian Cheruiyot

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Known as ‘pocket rocket’ due to her short stature, Vivian is a Kenyan long-distance runner who specializes in track and cross country running. She has a massive track record under her belt but her most notable moments include how she lost 17kgs after giving birth. Vivian did this in order to compete in the 2013 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Athletics Championships 10,000m gold medal in Beijing, China. She won that by the way.

These aren’t Vivian’s first Olympics. She scooped 2nd and 3rd place in the 2012 Olympics for women’s 5000m and 10,000m respectively. She has also crowned Laureus World Sports Award for Sportswoman of the Year 2012. In Rio this year, she is doubling up in the women’s 5000m and 10000m.

#MotherlandMogul lesson: There’s always room to do better and improve on your best. Vivian has pushed herself to do better and succeeded. She won and we can learn from her by pushing ourselves to win too.

Hortence Vanessa Mballa Atangana

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Another judoka on the list, Vanessa has been flying the Cameroonian flag high since 2013 when she won the African Championships where she won a bronze medal in the women’s 78kg category. She also scooped third place in the Commonwealth games of 2014. In this year’s Olympics, she is going for gold in the same category.

Margret Rumat Rumat Hassan

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Margret’s story is touching. The 19-year-old will be one of South Sudan’s two athletes to participate in the Olympics. She is from Wau, a South Sudan city, where, as recently as 2015, this world-class athlete didn’t even have access to a gym.

Against all odds, she trained her way to the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China. There she competed in the Women’s 400m as an Independent Olympic Athlete. This was even before South Sudan was recognized. She is aiming to be first or second at Rio2016 in the women’s 200m.

#MotherlandMogul lesson: Margret forged a path where there was none before. Some people spend their lives training to be athletes in world-class gyms, Margret didn’t have access to that last year. And still, she stands.

Blessing Okagbare

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Blessing also holds many feathers in her cap. This Nigerian track and field athlete specializes in long jumping and short sprints is an Olympic and World Championships medalist in the long jump. Blessing is also a world medalist in the 200 metres. She holds the Women’s 100 metres Commonwealth Games record for the fastest time at 10.85 seconds.

Her 100m best of 10.79 made her the African record holder for the event until it was eclipsed by Murielle Ahoure in 2016. She was the African 100m and long jump champion in 2010. She has also won medals at the All-Africa Games, IAAF Continental Cup and World Relays. As a sign of her prowess, she is poised to take part in four events during Rio2016: women’s long jump, women’s 100m, women’s 200m and women’s 4x100m relay.

Genzebe Dibaba

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This Ethiopian middle- and long-distance runner is destined for great things. Genzebe is the sister of three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba and Olympic silver medalist Ejegayehu Dibaba, and the cousin of former Olympic champion Derartu Tulu. Her veins are literally flow with the blood of a winner. However, that’s not to say her own efforts are for nothing.

Genzebe was the 2012 World Indoor Champion for the 1500m, and is the reigning 2014 World Indoor Champion and World Indoor Record Holder in the 3000m. She represented Ethiopia at the 2012 Summer Olympics and has twice competed at the World Championships in Athletics (2009 and 2011). Genzebe was named Laureus Sportswoman of the Year for the 2014 year and was 2015 IAAF World Athlete of the Year. She is the current world record holder for the 1500m (both indoor and outdoor), the indoor 3000m, the indoor 5000m, the indoor mile, and the indoor two miles.

She is looking to win the women’s 1500 m track and field event at Rio2016.

#MotherlandMogul lesson: We know we mentioned this before but…look at Genzebe’s family! The Dibaba family, aka the “world’s fastest family” are goals for how healthy families can reach their peaks and excel. They challenge us to ask, how can we work with our families to ensure that everyone stays winning?

Caster Semenya

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A middle-distance runner, South African Caster Semenya’s track record is bright. It all started in the 2008 World Junior Championships, where she won the gold in the 800m at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games. In the African Junior Championships of 2009, she won both the 800m and 1500m races. In August of the same year, Caster won gold in the 800 metres at the World Championships setting the fastest time of the year.

Caster was chosen to carry the country’s flag during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics where she scooped a silver medal in the women’s 800 metres. Amidst the shadow of gender testing that has been haunting her career, Semenya aims for gold in this year’s Olympics in the category of Women’s 800m.

#MotherlandMogul lesson: After the gender testing troubles, some people thought Caster will no longer participate in competitive sports. Caster has proven those haters wrong by rising again with no consideration for what others may think.

As the Rio2016 unfolds, these are just a few of the #MotherlandMoguls to keep your eyes on as they do us proud!

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