Slovakia: Romani girl from settlement now champion runner in her region
One year ago, photographs of Annamária, a Romani girl standing on the first place podium of an athletics competition in ballerina flats, went viral on Czech and Slovak social media. Despite her family being very badly off financially and living in a cabin in the Romani settlement of Moldava nad Bodvou, she beat more than 400 other children to win the 750 meter race.
Her talent was noticed by the local athletics club, which has taken her under their wing and is financially supporting her. Today, after one year of training, she is the best runner in her category in eastern Slovakia.
Slovak public broadcaster RTVS has been following up on her story. Annamária trains four times a week and excels all other members at her club.
"She's a medium distance runner. At this moment she is the best runner in eastern Slovakia in the category of older schoolgirls," Norobert Pecze, chair of the Legionnaires' Athletics Club, told RTVS television.
The Slovak Athletics Union, which supports the club Annamária trains at, is also taking care of other talented athletes, but sociologist Zuzana Kusá of the Slovak Academy of Sciences says the union should focus more on support for children's sport generally and for children from socially disadvantaged environments above all. "We are supporting top-level sports, not children's sports, and especially not anything for children who live in different kinds of disadvantaged conditions," she told RTVS.
"For many such people, sport can be a big motivation and opportunity to extricate themselves from such environments," the sociologist said. She also noted that it is very difficult to spot talent among such children because they frequently do not attend physical education classes in the Slovak schools - for no other reason than that they do not own a change of clothes or footwear.
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