Though he lives in the U.S., training and studying at Michigan State University, Mohamed “Mo” Hrezi qualified for the Olympic marathon and will compete for Libya as that country’s only representative in track and field events.
Hrezi, 24, says he is honored to represent his family’s Libyan heritage.
“There are days that I get letters in the mail from people I don’t know, which have pictures from newspapers and clippings about my running,” he said. “Given the country’s turmoil, any light and positivity is good for the people, and I think they feel even prouder knowing that an American-born Libyan wants to represent them.”
He and hundreds of other Olympians in Rio are dual citizens. They have passports in two countries and the legal rights and obligations of both countries.
The Olympic Charter stipulates that athletes must be nationals of the country for which they compete. U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one nationality or another.
From early June to July, Hrezi modified his training schedule to observe Ramadan, a time of reflection and fasting from dawn to dusk. Throughout his fast, he was putting in 100 miles of training runs per week. It meant his hardest workout of the day started at 1:30 a.m., with his bleary-eyed coach, Kevin Hanson, following along on a bicycle.
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After a post-run snack (usually hard-boiled eggs and protein smoothies), he got to bed by 4 a.m. Having grueling preparations for Rio during Ramadan has been a spiritual experience, Hrezi said.
“I feel truly blessed,” he said. “And I hope to come away with an effort that makes my family, friends and country proud.”
You can follow Mohamed Hrezi on Twitter @Mo_Hrezi. The Olympic marathon will take place on Sunday, August 21.