When the Olympic Games roll around, we’re all confronted with what people can accomplish with enough dedication.

No matter which arenas these athletes step into, there is a common thread that connects each and every one of them: They make it their mission to achieve their dreams. Whether they grew up rich or poor, privileged or suffocated by oppression, they’re all emblematic of what it means to chase your dreams until you’re totally breathless.

But there are some whose stories strike a particularly profound chord. A few athletes competing in Rio this year were born into violence in Sudan. Another broke her spine and stopped at nothing to get back in the game. Their stories are important. They’re inspiring and powerful and sometimes tragic. They prove that with perseverance, no hurdle on the road to greatness is too high.

1. Kayla Harrison

Kayla Harrison

 

In Rio, Harrison will compete for the United States in women’s judo. She has trained with the likes of Rhonda Rousey. She fields more offers from mixed martial arts groups every day. She was also sexually abused by her coach as a judo prodigy at the age of 13.