16 February 2014

The Non-conquering Hero

She had the world in her hands and set it free.

Sports and power go hand in hand. In most sports, athletes struggle to assert their power over each other. The most successful athletes also tend to achieve social power and standing beyond the arena or the field of play. Fans revere them and see them as models for how to live. Some athletes become influential in politics.

Finland recently attempted to give an Olympic medalist power over nature, but her response turned the power structure on its head. According to this story from Finnish news outlet Yle, snowboarding silver medalist Enni Rukajärvi was offered land for a house as a reward for her success. She declined and said she asked only for "pure nature."

It's not completely clear what Rukajärvi's request includes, but her revision of tradition certainly calls into question the hierarchy that encourages the development of nature for human consumption. With it, she has placed greater value on the natural world than on humans' long-asserted privilege to control and manage the environment.

Nature has a special power, and thanks to a Finnish snowboarder, there's a place in the world where that power will remain.

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