Çelen Oben and Sheila Riikonen
In Finland where finance and politics are no longer barriers to achieve star status in sports, what challenges do minorities face? Do female athletes, persons with disabilities, or those coming from immigrant backgrounds have equal opportunities in Finnish society?
You can visit Nooralotta Neziri official website here.
Nooralotta Neziri just won the women’s 60-meter hurdle on February 3, 2013 at the Star Atlethics in Tampere (“Tähtien kisoista ja 23-vuotiaiden EM-kisoissa “). She achieved this with an impressive 8.14, while the second fastest Lotta Harala came at 8.20. Already a national record holder and U20 European champion, Nooralotta now looks forward to the European Championships 2013 in Göteborg, Sweden.
We interviewed Nooralotta for a feature story as part of a project report for the EU and Council of Europe´s programme for Diversity and Social Integration of Minorities in Europe.
The authors Celen Oben (North Cyprus) and Sheila Riikonen (Philippines) travelled in Finland and Cyprus to interview sports figures from a minority background in a span of 10 days in December 2012. Here is the excerpt of the interview with her:
Nooralotta Neziri, 21 years old, first talked about what inspired her. “I started running at the age of 7. My inspiration was my uncle who encouraged me to join a running club to get friends as we moved to a new place. My family and parents are very proud of me and they never doubted my goals. They are always very supportive.”
She currently studies Master of Economic Sciences in Pori. Describing her career, her biggest records are the U20 European Championships Gold medal, U18 European Olympic Festival Gold medal and own national senior record 13.10.
Other achievements are National Champion 2012, U18 World championships 5th, U20 World championships 5th, and Youth national record.
Sponsors and big companies do not mean the same thing, she said. “Yes, they are big companies here, but the amount of money isn’t too big yet. Last year I made the contracts myself but nowadays I have a manager to do those things. So I don’t have to use my energy to them.”
We spoke to her about some countries for example North Cyprus, when female athletes get married and have children; they stop running – what is her case?
“Usually, in Finland it’s the same. But I think it shouldn’t be over if you have a good motivation to continue training after giving a birth. There are many female athletes winning a medal in the Olympics who are mothers. It’s about your own motivation and how supportive your family is.”
Using drugs and doping are a sensitive issue where top-level athletes have been penalized. “I would never even consider using that. I think it’s unfair towards others. And I wouldn’t risk my health with drugs. I believe I can become a world champion without ever seeing them, “ she said.
Nooralotta’s dad is a Macedonian Albanian while her mother is a Finn. “So I’m 50% Albanian 50% Finnish. I think that’s my strength, I have always been a bit different from everyone else and I think it so cool! I’ve learned to like my difference. My goal is to be the best hurdle runner in the world!”
While there are challenges in everyday life and seemingly insurmountable odds in international competitions, athletes like Nooralotta persevered. Families and relationships are big factors in their success. The role of mentors and clubs are also important. A passion for sports and healthy lifestyle are enabling factors to succeed.