The Challengers

Feyisa Lilesa

Olympic runner/Ethiopia

For breaking the rules of the games.

Feyisa Lilesa

Given the fact that the Olympic Charter bans political propaganda, demonstrations are a rarity at the games. Nevertheless, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa snubbed the rulebook in order to call attention to the brutal actions of his country’s security forces. As the marathoner approached the finish line in second place, he crossed his arms over his head—an attention-grabbing gesture to show solidarity with his Oromo tribe. In the weeks before the race, the Ethiopian government had cracked down on protests by the embattled indigenous group and killed dozens. “If I would’ve taken my medal and went back to Ethiopia, that would’ve been the biggest regret of my life,” Lilesa, who hasn’t yet returned home, told the Associated Press. “I wanted to be a voice for a story that wasn’t getting any coverage.” (Photo credit: BUDA MENDES/Getty Images)

Since widespread protests began in Ethiopia last year, hundreds of people have been killed, thousands injured, tens of thousands arrested, and hundreds disappeared, according to Human Rights Watch.

In August, Ethiopian runner Ebisa Ejigu used Lilesa’s move while crossing the finish line to win the Quebec City Marathon.