No one is safe from body shaming.
Ethiopia sent 36 athletic delegates to Rio and while they are often focused on their performance in track and field, they have gotten lots of press lately because of one of their two swimmers, Robel Kiros Habte.
The 24-year-old’s highlighted not for this talent and skill, or leading his delegation in the opening ceremony by proudly waving his Ethiopian flag or even the fact he qualified and made it to the Olympics …
He is making headlines for his body, to the point where he’s been dubbed “Robel the Whale.” … Yes, really.
Only one in five of 113 US athletic swimmers will even have an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics. This number grows exponentially for athletes from Ethiopia. Robel’s entry was secured via FINA, which extends invitations to athletes from underrepresented countries.
“Every day you wake up in Ethopia, you run. Not swimming. But I didn’t want to run, I wanted to be a swimmer. It didn’t matter where I finished.” – Robel Kiros Habte
Robel was noticeably different from other swimmers, due to his portly tummy. The internet, in turn, had a field day, regarding his lack of an “Olympian body.” He finished last place out of 59 swimmers and was the only entrant to not complete the 100 meters in under one minute.
The Olympian was made fun of for his size, as many people jeered and joked at his “dad bod.” Robel is 5-foot-9 and 179 pounds, compared to Nathan Adrian, the best U.S. freestyle swimmer, who is 6-foot-6 and weighs 220 pounds.
Everyone who is typing behind the screen and hasn’t qualified for the Olympics, let alone gone to the gym this morning, needs to be quiet. There were rumors swirling he’s only representing Ethiopia because his father, Kiros Habte Kinfe, is the president of the Ethiopian Swimming Federation, and crying foul play not talent.
However he got there, by hook or by crook, does not give anyone the right to body shame. You can’t body shame an Olympic athlete, just like you can’t body shame the woman walking down the street. Body shaming is a**hole behavior.
How are we body shaming an athlete — an Olympic athlete — for what they look like? Though we shouldn’t even have to discuss why Robel’s the size he is, the athlete was in a car accident that caused him to gain almost 100 pounds. While he lost a lot of weight and dieted, he was not able to lose everything. Nevertheless, he didn’t want to miss the Olympics. So he came and represented.
Since his performance, he has admitted to being off social media.
“I don’t know these people, but maybe after one week I can go back to the internet,” he said of being flooded by insults from strangers.
He has also admitted this is his first and last Olympics. Don’t fear, though, he’s not giving up: “I know my body is fat, but I will lose the weight and when I go to Canada for the world championships … I will show them.”
Yes, you will, Robel.
Quit policing his injera and let this OLYMPIAN live!
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Instagram, Twitter