African News

The athlete who refused to die | News | Sport

Published

on

“I knew that if I didn’t make peace with what they did to me, thinking about it over and over might eventually kill me,” Mhlengi Gwala said, reflecting on the men who attacked him and tried to saw off his legs while he was training in Durban last year.

The name might ring a bell, but the punchline to his startling narrative is one that still sends alarm bells ringing across the sporting world. Actually, around the world.
Period.

It takes a macabre mind to want to rob a man of not only his life but also his means to an end.
Murder manifests itself on a disturbingly regular basis in South Africa, but sabotage such as this is so cold and calculating that it leaves hauntingly unanswered questions. The attack on the legs that freed Gwala to dream of destinations afar and goals anew was so specifically savage that he still has one question:

“I know that those who came for me were sent by someone else. They were sent specifically to do just that, so my question is, who sent them? Why would a person want me to suffer like this?”

The irony is that Gwala’s regular job is that of a lifeguard. He is paid to save lives. He works at the Westville swimming pool, making sure that all who use it are safe. He also works on the Durban beaches, where he and his fellow Hasselhoffs play a crucial role, especially during the holiday period.

On arrival at the Westville pool, the lady at reception plays a prank. She deadpans that Gwala no longer works there and has been relocated to the beach. The information is in stark contrast to his confirmation of the appointment at “around 9am, when I have a quick break for cereal”.

Happy place

The lady, revelling in her role as cruel jester, pretends to carry on with her duties. There is no sign of Gwala and everyone else is going about their day. Kids swim, a pair of teenage lovers chat under a tree and the old ladies slowly swim their laps for the day.

“Have you been helped yet?” asks a male voice from behind.

It is Gwala, with a smile as wide as the swimming pool. He admonishes the lady at reception, then explains that she is there to screen guests who might not be who they say they are. He ushers me into the office and shares one more laugh with the lady as he prepares his cereal. It is immediately apparent that he is in a happy place at work, surrounded by laughs and friends — and the unsuspecting victims of their humour.

Imagine, then, how twisted you would have to be to want to kill or harm a man whose daily responsibility is to saves lives. Even now, there is a sense of disbelief in his voice as he recounts that crazy, sixth day of March 2018. He trails away when he gets to the actual savagery. But what the mouth doesn’t articulate, the mind plays over and over.

Quite understandably, too. How do you forget watching someone trying to saw your legs off?

And yet, incredibly, Gwala has taken that ghastly act and reconstructed it into a new dream. His goals as a tenacious triathlete may have been cut short, but Gwala has simply found another way.

The 2020 Paralympics have suddenly surfaced as a beacon of fresh hope, a chance for him to reach a pinnacle he had never even considered in his carefree days. It is in keeping with a life that he admits has had its challenges, but also plenty of cheer. To know him properly, though, would be to go back in time a bit. At least as far back as the beginning of his adult life, which reads like a movie.

To know Gwala is to realise that triathlons truly are a walk in the park for him, given some of the challenges he has already encountered. To really know him would be to realise an indefatigable spirit, a melting pot of human mistakes and superhuman makeovers, a freakish ability to use sport as a recurring lifeline. At times, competing and even training has been therapy for a young man who has always been naturally fit.

Mates and merriment

The Gwala of 2019 may be known to a lot of people, but you have to go back to 2009, in late December, to really understand how deep the wells of character run in his veins.

“I was young, working and lucky enough to have parents who were both working. So, though I helped out a bit, what income I had was disposable.”

As is the case with many 18-year-olds, Gwala got into booze and partying, willing away his nights in Chesterville with mates and merriment.

“I was drinking. A lot! I was young, having a good time and not really worried about much. I didn’t realise how much harm I was doing to myself until I ended up in hospital. It was 10 December 2009 and the doctors said my liver was taking severe strain.”

He nearly spent that Christmas in hospital, having collapsed on the way to the doctor for a check-up. There, in that waiting room, he met his first good Samaritan in a long time. A fellow patient heard him mention that his liver was going yellow and suggested an over-the-counter solution that had worked for her.

“I had to mix a spoon or two [of the nutrition drink] with water, then drink it. Every day. Within two weeks, the doctors said I was showing good signs of flushing out my system. I don’t know who the lady was, but she was a godsend.”

While his health was on the mend, Gwala had other problems. He had lost his job as a merchandiser in Durban because of his alcoholic state. So, professionally, he was in a bad place, thanks to too much of a good time. As the rest of the country looked to 2010 as a potential bounty, he pondered what fresh hardship the year might bring.

It was then, sitting with the same friends that he had partied with, that a plan was hatched. As he faced up to the sobering reality of his young life of excess, one of his friends suggested he try and kill time by helping out at the Chesterville swimming pool.

There, he met his real lifesaver, Zamo Ngcobo.

Becoming a lifeguard

“That guy changed everything. He taught me how to swim, but he also taught me about life. He really saved my life,” says Gwala.

Though it might strike some as peculiar that an 18-year-old needed to learn how to swim, it is an African reality that has never fully been tackled. Proficiency in water would save many lives, but until it is a fundamental part of the rural culture — instead of a supposed luxury — there will still be terrible accidents. Gwala says he was actually better equipped than many others.

“I had learnt the basics. I knew how to stay afloat. I guess you could call it something like a doggie paddle!”

Ngcobo encouraged him to become a lifeguard and get some structure in his life. The doggie paddle developed and morphed into a powerful crawl. He was on his way and the tide had turned in other aspects of his life, too. He mixed that punishing regimen in the pool with another job in Pinetown, working in a factory.

The life of a lifeguard is no Baywatch scene. Its routines and rhythms are dictated by the raging sea and the rampant mob that the waves sometimes attract. Danger lurks every minute and the lifeguards stand on high, on guard.
Dressed in red, and on red alert.
Ready.

This was the rejuvenated Gwala, working long hours and swimming, moulding his mind and body into a symphony of intent and contentment. Such was his focus that even when he finished his shift at 10pm in Pinetown, with no public transport around that time, he would simply be his own wheels.

“I would bring my takkies to work and then run home to Chesterville [about 13km, with the final stretch downhill] when I was finished. It would normally take me 45 minutes, if I ran hard.”

The other alternative was to sleep uncomfortably at the factory, then wake up at first light to go home, and then come back to work. “It was a simple decision. I just ran.”

There is a freakish simplicity in that approach but, as he says, all the challenges of his youth were clearly steering him towards far greater adversity down the road he has run in his almost 28 years.

And, to be true, what Gwala was doing was not completely alien. Thousands of people rise before the sun, on the outskirts of Durban and other cities around South Africa — rising an hour earlier and walking to work in unison is a norm.

The reason for walking is not even about health. It’s about trying to put away extra pennies, perhaps for a child on their way to school or an unemployed relative spending the day at home with their thoughts.

What Gwala did might sound extreme, because he ran like the wind and made it seem easy, but he was part of an army of foot soldiers.

Hobby to obsession

As the lifeguard routine took shape, he got more and more competitive. Gwala earned a short-term resident contract as a lifeguard at Westville, then got even keener on dominating the regular triathlon competitions held on the beach. The combination of swimming and running graduated from hobby into obsession and he fed off the constant challenge to get better.

“It was very competitive. I knew that I had to be top five in everything, because those standings helped us to get contracts each year. My running was stronger than my swimming, but I was improving all the time.”

He readily admits that had he started swimming at a younger age, it would have been a lot easier to compete as an adult. But he doesn’t frown upon the hand he was dealt, because it has given him much. “I love winning. I think we all do. That is why we enter races, or play sport. I have always loved that sense of competition, and those championships were a great source of pride.”

While he was showing great stamina as a lifeguard, he was intrigued and decided to add one more feather to his cap and become a triathlete. Admittedly, it was a clumsy beginning, on ill-sized bikes. He was a muscle-bound novice, all enthusiasm and no technique.

“That bike didn’t last long, but I got a lot of help and encouragement from the cycling and triathlon community.”

That is the remarkable thing about these endurance sport in South Africa. Be it running, canoeing, triathlon or mountain biking, there is an unwritten code that each one must look after the other. Perhaps it’s at the top of the forms you sign when you join these crazy gangs who undertake torturous slogs across tough terrain with a smile and a “why not?”.

It was this attitude that brought Gwala into the triathlon ranks, and there he met Olympic medallist Henri Schoeman. He is a friend, in the sincerest sense of the word. When 6 March 2018 happened, it was Schoeman’s tweet that brought Gwala’s situation to light, leading to a crowdfunding campaign to help tackle the mounting medical bills of his fellow competitor.

They stand together, these ultra athletes, because there is an unflinching, mutual respect for what they put themselves through on a regular basis. It is physically impressive, sure, but the mental fortitude required is something else. Which is why Gwala slotted right in. By the time he became a respected rival in these new fields of his, his personal circumstances had also changed. He was a father and had to put food on the table.

Hitting the road

Gone were the days of his youth, the reckless partying and scant regard for what tomorrow might bring. In their stead, Gwala now filled his days with responsibility, rehydration and a respect and appreciation for second chances.

Thus, his ambitions to become an international triathlon star were in order. He was making his way, too, with his running ability already renowned as being near freakish. That’s what running sub-45 minutes to get home after a long shift in a factory will do for you. It creates uncommon reserves of endurance in the legs. Heck, it was as if he had been born with an extra lung, because the energy wells appeared even deeper than the oceans he had to traverse.

“I know that is where I can make up time on my rivals, because their swimming is better than me. On the road, when I am feeling good, I know I can catch people.”

It’s a primal instinct and one that is ideal for the final leg of one of sport’s most brutal codes. There are no losers in elite triathlons. Someone just happens to win a bit faster than the rest. And so, when Gwala was racing in the United States or Canada and showing his worth, you can forgive him for thinking ahead and figuring that the next five or so years of his life were mapped out.

Of course, life then threw a deplorable curveball at him on that awful day. On his bike, early in the morning, and then the ambush. “I think they must have been following me for a while,” he starts.

At this point, the tone of the interview becomes hushed. The days of booze and stumbling were detailed with an almost cavalier attitude. It didn’t matter who was in earshot, because those tales came laced with a shot of reality. There was a happy ending to that crazy chapter in his life. This, however, took some getting used to.

“They knew I was coming, and that I would be alone.”

The details are horrific and have been reproduced enough times not to put him through that again. To this day, he cycles and runs with his eyes alert to potential danger. It’s in the pool that he finds the most serenity, and in the pool that he can temporarily put aside the disability his attackers left him with.

“It was hard to shift my thinking from being an able-bodied athlete, and now being considered a disabled athlete. It’s not normal. You are usually born with disabilities, so it felt weird for a while saying that.”

Guardian angels

It is not supposed to happen that way and it very nearly was a lot worse. He almost lost his lower right leg completely because of the significant nerve damage.

“Dr [O’Sharran] Singh saved my leg. He operated on the nerves when it looked like it couldn’t be saved. There are so many people I have to thank for being here today,” he says.

His eyes glisten like the blue Westville water he peers across — still on duty — before he starts reeling off his guardian angels. The physiotherapists and doctors at the Prime Institute, in the bowels of the Moses Mabhida Stadium. The generosity of so many people during the crowdfunding, from around the world. The medical bills were astronomical and they simply kept coming.

Consider how pricey it is to go for a regular check-up with a GP when you are not on medical aid. Now ponder how much it might cost to try and save a leg?

His parents, his partner Hlengiwe, his two children, his friends, his adopted moms on the triathlon circuit, his technical support… all their prayers and well wishes, those were other, hugely important figures in his life.

They surrounded him in his darkest days, when nightmares plagued him as regularly as friends frequented his days. They enveloped him with love, showered him with encouragement.

Politicians visited, trying to make sense of it all. Gwala doesn’t name them, but they know who they are. Sometimes, those that govern the country are accused of treating tragedy as an opportunity to canvass and deviate from the moment. But, on occasions such as Gwala’s, it was heartfelt.

Lest we forget, they are also parents, and they also dread to think what retributive horrors might have crossed their minds if it was their child who had been through that ordeal. It’s a lot.

Giving the Grim Reaper the middle finger, twice

Twice now, before the age of 30, Gwala has looked on as death beckons him closer. And twice he has found the means to go the other way. His surname might translate as coward, but he is the absolute antithesis of that.

In his early days of rehabilitation, it would have been easy to slip back into the bottle during the arduous barrage of tests, consultations and heavy medication. Society would have understood, and sympathised. But sitting in his hospital bed, Gwala counted his lucky stars.

“I’m forgetting someone. Someone hugely important”, he says, urgently reminding himself. “Bab’ uGumede saved my life.”

Gumede was the security guard on duty on 6 March, so he was first on the gruesome scene. He was yet another lifeguard in a narrative that has required several to get to this point.

“Without him, I wouldn’t be here now. No way. He saved my life by being there at that time.”

He stops and blinks away the memory. It would also have been easy for the hitherto jovial Gwala to grow bitter and wary of the world. But somehow he has retained that spirit of ubuntu.

He has chosen to embrace everything life has thrown at him and is now looking to inspire others. He is training aspirant athletes to carry the torch. He has housed two of the most promising in his home, so that they can quickly get used to the demands of being a triathlete.

Paralympic aspirations

He is also still happy to spend his short breaks with sport scribes intrigued by his relentless drive. As we chat, the Weetbix that should have been his quick breakfast sits cold and untouched.

Happily, that is not the way the Gwala story ends. He has a new dream, one that could take him to the Paralympics in Tokyo next year.

“I never imagined that I would ever compete on that stage. It’s amazing. I am a C4 disability in cycling and I am now waiting to see what criteria I need to meet for qualification.”

There is an urgency in his voice again, a sure-fire sign that the competitive machinations of his mind are already turning over the possibilities.

“Just being there means you are a winner. It is hard to get there. It’s the biggest stage in the world.”

That is all so unflinchingly true and Gwala would almost warrant a medal just for getting there in 18 months. Sitting on the side of the road, screaming, with his leg almost sawed off, he could have thrown in the towel and accepted grim defeat.

Instead, he found a flicker of hope and has been jealously guarding that light since. How fitting would it be, then, if he took that candle of hope all the way to Tokyo and placed it next to that other flame that takes centre stage every four years.

He says a medal would be crazy, but that it may well be the best way to say thank you for the incredible support he has received over the past 10 months. Incredibly, he doesn’t think his considerable words and deeds so far are enough.

And so, as he so often has, he will strain every sinew to be in peak condition come the winter of 2020.

“I always say you have to prepare as much as possible to be a winner. You have to be at your best. And then, even after all your training, you still need a bit of luck to get there first. Everyone on that starting line has also trained hard,” he says. “Trust me, if I get to the Paralympic Games, I will be ready.”

After everything he has been through, there isn’t a shadow of a doubt that one of South Africa’s most incredible tales of adversity will be ready. He ought to be a motivational speaker, or the subject of an inspirational movie. The only problem with that, of course, is that he keeps adding exciting new chapters to an already riveting screenplay.

And then still has the cheek to say he is just a lifeguard. — NewFrame

Source link

قالب وردپرس

African News

Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal

Published

on

By

People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.


People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

Montreal
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
Montreal.

The
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

Israeli
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

Speaking
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

While
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

Earlier
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

Although
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

Following
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

Several
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

“Terrorist
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

Pro-Palestinian
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.


Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

African News

Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

Published

on

By

“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

African News

Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach

Published

on

By

Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

African News

Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe

Published

on

By

Miss Universe Andrea Meza


Miss Universe Andrea Meza

UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 IS ANDREA MEZA FROM MEXICO:


UPDATE:

THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 5:

1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru


UPDATE:

HERE ARE THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 10 CONTESTANTS:

1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21 IN SWIMWEAR:


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21: 

1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam


 UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA NATASHA JOUBERT WALKS THE STAGE AT MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021:


74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred

In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can
trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to
a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism,
top opinions and a range of features. Journalism
strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

African News

Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021

Published

on

By

By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

Share this article:

Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

popcaan