In a recent feature by Olympic, Hafsatu Kamara from Sierra Leone underscores the importance of representation on the Olympic stage, highlighting its power to inspire hope. As she aims for a second Olympic appearance in Paris 2024, Kamara shares her passion for inspiring young girls through sports, her thoughts on Dakar 2026, and addresses the persistent taboo around mental health among African athletes.
The disappointment of not advancing to the 100m semi-finals at her first Olympic Games in Rio 2016 weighed heavily on Kamara. However, the messages she received, particularly one from a father in Sierra Leone, changed her perspective. The father shared videos and photos of his daughter, expressing how inspired she was by watching Hafsatu compete. This revelation shifted Kamara’s focus, making her realize that her representation goes beyond personal achievements—it impacts the aspirations of an entire nation.
Kamara stresses that for countries like Sierra Leone, participating in the Olympics is more about representation than just winning medals. It provides a voice and presence on a global stage, fostering hope and encouraging future generations to aim for Olympic success.
In addition to her athletic pursuits, Kamara, who also serves as Sierra Leone’s Athlete Chair on the IOC’s Athlete Commission, actively engages in community initiatives. She highlights a successful project in 2021 addressing women’s and girls’ health issues in Sierra Leone, distributing reusable feminine pads to young girls in collaboration with Uman4Uman and founder Haja Isatu Bah.
Looking ahead to Paris 2024, Kamara combines her training as a sprinter with a commitment to community development. She envisions a 3×3 basketball clinic to promote the sport and believes it can be a feasible endeavor for Sierra Leonean athletes.
Discussing the significance of Dakar 2026, where Africa will host the Youth Olympic Games for the first time, Kamara sees it as an opportunity for the continent to showcase its culture and traditions to the world. She emphasizes the importance of the event in challenging historical narratives and presenting Africa in a contemporary light.
During a recent International Athletes’ Forum, Kamara participated in discussions on mental health in sports. She acknowledges that mental health remains a challenge for African athletes, often taking a back seat to more immediate concerns such as shelter and food security.
Born in the United States to Sierra Leonean parents, Kamara moved back to Sierra Leone during her early childhood. Despite facing challenges, including the country’s civil war, she remains committed to making a positive impact. Reflecting on her journey, Kamara expresses a desire to break down stereotypes and showcase the diverse spaces where Sierra Leoneans can excel.
As she pursues her goal of qualifying for Paris 2024, Kamara is not only dedicated to excelling in athletics but also to inspiring future generations and challenging societal stigmas surrounding Sierra Leoneans. She aims to contribute to a broader narrative that extends beyond sports, encompassing business, the environment, and various fields where Sierra Leoneans can thrive.