With the 2020 Olympic Games still going on in Tokyo, Japan, the display by athletes and countries celebrating medals has once again opened the door on the debate on whether parents can let their children balance work and sports. For many African parents, sports is a distraction and only secondary to education. Whether it is football or basketball athletics, most parents will not allow their children to concentrate on sports even if the children emphasise on balancing both. Those who allow them do so on one strict condition -balancing books and whatever sports they are passionate about, but keeping it on their minds that education comes first. Perhaps this explains why most African countries are not winning a lot of medals as the likes of China, U.S and Australia, countries which are known to nurture athletes at a very young age, through the school system. Boniface Habumugisha, a sports trainer and instructor says that sports education starts at an early age and can go hand-in-hand with education and parents shouldn’t see it as a problem. “It is possible to balance education and sports if you have the passion and the talent. One cannot affect the other. Parents also have to recall that one can build an illustrious career and become very successful,” “Sports can also be lucrative, so parents shouldn’t look at it negatively. Other advantages include the pride of representing your country, winning medals and prizes and of course staying fit and healthy,” Habumugisha adds. Several athletes and sports personalities participating in the Olympics in Japan serve as good examples to prove that you can balance sports and academics or another career. The biggest inspiration this year is Anna Kiesenhofer, who surprised everyone when she won the women’s cycling road race, trouncing many favourites. She is the epitome of juggling career and sports. Austrian Kiesenhofer holds a PhD in mathematics. She was a student at the University of Vienna and also went to Cambridge University. The cyclist acquired a doctorate from the University of Catalonia in 2016. She is currently pursuing post-doctoral research in mathematics at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Habumugisha says one of the biggest challenges however are the facilities to train which might not be readily available in developing countries like Rwanda, compared to western countries. “At some stage, you will need a specialised trainer to mould you and for many parents that could be an extra cost. For some, you have to move a long distance to the next facility.” Apart from Kiesenhofer, below are six other athletes, profiled by CGTN, competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, who had to juggle day jobs and sports to make their Olympic dream come true. Javad Foroughi (Iran, shooting, hospital nurse) Nurse Javad Foroughi became Iran’s first gold medallist of the Tokyo Games when he won the men’s 10m air pistol event. Competing in his first Olympics, the 41-year-old set an Olympic record of 244.8 points to finish ahead of Serbia’s Damir Mikec and China’s Pang Wei. After his victory, Foroughi told journalists that he had resorted to practicing at home for months because of Covid-19 restrictions in his homeland. He also explained that his training program included long sessions with an air pistol in the basement of a Tehran hospital, where he works. Iran’s media hailed him as a national hero for both his Olympic triumph and his efforts as a frontline healthcare worker. Benjamin Savsek (Slovenia, canoeing, policeman) Policeman Benjamin Savsek won Slovenia’s first-ever Olympic canoe slalom gold medal by dominating his rivals in the C1 final here. The world No. 7 crossed the finish line in 98.25 seconds, 3.71 seconds ahead of silver medallist Lukas Rohan of the Czech Republic. Apart from working as a police officer, Savsek is also a qualified electrician. Jo Brigden-Jones (Australia, kayaking, paramedic) Australian Jo Brigden-Jones combines her kayaking career with a job as a paramedic. He does kayaking as a sport he is committed to and also works as a paramedic because he wants to save lives. In addition to saving lives, Brigden-Jones revealed she trained for the Olympics by paddling in shark and crocodile-infested waters. “When you see a big splash, you know it’s a shark down there,” she said. Rosangela Santos (Brazil, sprinting, driver) Brazil’s Rosangela Santos worked as an Uber driver in the US to make ends meet as she prepared for her fourth Olympic Games. The 30-year-old, who was a part of Brazil’s 4x100m relay team that took bronze at the Beijing 2008 Games, will compete in the 100m and 4x100m in Tokyo. Santos competed in both the 100m and 4x100m events at these Games. Ruben Limard (Venezuela, fencing, delivery rider) Venezuela’s London 2012 foil gold medallist Ruben Limardo made food deliveries on his bicycle in Poland to earn a living as he trained for the Tokyo Games. The 35-year-old was eliminated in the epee individual event here when he lost to France’s Romain Cannone in the round of 32 last Sunday (July 25). Limardo began fencing at the age of seven and was originally right-handed before an injury prompted him to switch to his left side. Benjamin Fletcher (Ireland, judo, horticulturist) Irish judoka Benjamin Fletcher works at his family’s gardening business to support his judo career. He said he had to work to fund his Olympic dream. Fletcher, who switched nationality after representing Britain at the Rio 2016 Olympics, was eliminated in the Round of 32 in the men’s under-100kg category here on Thursday, July 29.