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Mari Rabie: The Olympian



Mari Rabie @marirabie is a South African Olympian, having competed in the triathlon in both 2008 and 2016. Growing up in a sporty household (her Dad is a long-distance runner), Mari recalls South African long-distance running Olympian, Elana Meyer @elanameyer66 being a regular visitor to her parents’ home and often handing her, her older running shoes. Thus, the idea of being an Olympian was a seed that was planted in Mari’s mind from a young age. Hanging an image of the Olympic rings on her bedroom wall, she made becoming an Olympian a life goal, committing from an early age to the training that supported that dream and swimming, running and cycling competitively whilst at school.


After school, she headed to university, committing full-time to pursuing both a degree and her goal of qualifying for the Olympics in triathlon, but by the end of her first year at university, she had developed a stomach ulcer from the stress of trying to excel both physically at her training and mentally at her studies. After some reflection and discussion with her parents, she decided to lengthen the period over which she would complete her degree and put greater focus on qualifying for the 2008 Olympics since the event only came around every 4 years. This would be Mari’s first encounter with the life principle of you can do most things in life but if you want to do it extremely well, it’s highly unlikely that you can pursue it all at the same time. At the age of 21, Mari found herself competing under the South African flag as a triathlete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her race, however, ended in disaster as she had technical issues with her bike which saw her finish in 43rd place overall. She describes Beijing as one of her greatest life disappointments and recalls how she nearly gave up on finishing the race after experiencing the issues with her bike but that her father came down from the stands where he had been watching and encouraged her to finish.


After the disappointment of Beijing, Mari returned home to Stellenbosch to complete her undergraduate degree, giving up on competing as a triathlete periodically. She recalls that period as being a bit tough, both because of the disappointment of Beijing (and of course what she at the time viewed as years of wasted effort) and because most of her friends had graduated and moved on from university. Mari went on to apply for the Rhodes scholarship in South Africa which she was successfully awarded, and she credits her time out at Oxford for helping her rebuild her confidence and rekindling the idea of pursuing her Olympic dream. It was also whilst completing her MBA, that Mari developed the business idea for athleisure brand Move Pretty @movepretty, a business she today co-owns with her fellow founder, Annelize Kotze @rwbwd . In 2013, after Oxford, Mari returned to training and racing with the goal of participating in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, whilst at the same time working part-time. She however suffered yet another setback when she was diagnosed with myocarditis in 2014 which required a year’s rest.


At the end of December 2015, she was ranked 115th in the world with only the top 50 allowed to compete at the Olympics. With time not on her side and the odds of qualifying getting steeper and steeper (7 races on 5 continents in 9 weeks), Mari was thrown a lifeline when an elite triathlete coach who trained medallists reached out and offered to train her. What followed were perhaps the most intense training months of Mari’s life but saw her not only successfully qualify to compete but finishing in 11th place overall at the Olympics in August 2016. Mari has since retired from competitive triathlon events and now works at a local investment holding company. She still runs and cycles in local races but says it was great to retire from Olympic training on such a high and avoid the post-performance depression that many sports people suffer from.


We are inspired by Mari’s long-term commitment to her life goal of successfully competing at the Olympics and her courage in the face of adversity when she could quite easily have thrown in the towel. Mari jokingly tells us that whilst waiting to board a flight back to SA after her stint at Oxford, she was carrying so much extra weight at the time, that when the air hostess called for all pregnant women to board the plane first, the guy seated next to her politely gestured to her to board mistakenly believing she was pregnant!


Featured artist: Katy Cambridge @the_portrait_artist

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