As the world celebrates Michael Phelps' record-breaking last lap or Aly Raisman's photo-finish landing, we must remember that the heart of the games isn't the grand gold-medal-bearing podium moment -- it's the stories of individual struggle and sacrifice.

In truth, the Olympic Creed hearkens to what happens long before the champions are named.

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle,” the creed reads. “The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

For the athletes hailing from some of the most underprivileged nations of the world -- places that are struck with poverty, intense violence and are granted few sporting resources -- these words are what their athletes live by, on and off of the field.

From Benin, where its judo champs can’t afford uniforms, to Burundi, where half the population lives below the poverty line, seven athletes have climbed out from the depths of despair to make their way to the world’s most celebrated competitive stage.

Read through seven extraordinary stories of triumph, of those who fought overwhelming obstacles to achieve their Olympic dreams.


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  • Sherab Zam, Archery, Bhutan

    Though Sherab Zam practices Bhutan's national sport, <a href="" target="_hplink">she doesn't even own her own bow</a> with which to practice, according to Slate. Nevertheless, the archer <a href="" target="_hplink">embodies the essence of the Olympic creed</a>. "Participation is more important than winning a medal," she told the news outlet.

  • Linouse Desravine, Judo, Haiti

    Three of five Haiti's training tracks have become home to many of those who were displaced by the devastating 2010 earthquake and the country has an Olympic budget of a mere $400,000 -- funds that pale in comparison to the U.S.'s $170 million, <a href="" target="_hplink">according to the Associated Press</a>. Of the five Olympians representing the impoverished country, Linouse Desravine, a judoko athlete, is the only one who actually hails from Haiti.

  • Patrick Boui, Taekwondo, Central African Republic

    The capital of Patrick Boui's country was ranked among the cities with the lowest quality of life in the entire world, according to a <a href="" target="_hplink">2011 study published by Mercer Human Resources</a>. But that hasn't interfered with his fighting spirit. Boui needed to only get to the finals to quality for the Olympic Games, but he managed to win the entire taekwondo event, making him one of the few athletes from Central African Republic to compete in London, according to <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>Sports Central.</em></a>

  • Ajmal Faizada, Judo, Afghanistan

    Ajmal Faizada, an eight-time national Judo champion, trains in Kabul's sole stadium -- a place that the Taliban once used for public executions, the <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>Guardian</em> reports.</a> Thanks to a wildcard, Faizada will represent his war-torn, poverty-stricken country, the Judoka reports. <a href="" target="_hplink">"I always say we only have one problem," </a> Abdul Karim Aziz, the head of the national athletics federation, told the news outlet, "which is that we have nothing."

  • Jacob Gnahoui, Judo, Benin

    Jacob Gnahoui learned Judo from his older brother and spent years fighting in T-shirts because he lacked a uniform, <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a> reports. He now lives in France, but is just as committed as ever to his home country. Gnahoui pays his own way to represent Benin and served as the <a href="" target="_hplink">country's flag bearer</a> in this year's Opening Ceremony.

  • Francine Niyonsaba, Running, Burundi

    In a country where half of the population lives below the poverty line, Francine Niyosaba serves as an inspiration. The runner became the second ever Burundian to take home a gold medal for her country, <a href="" target="_hplink">according to</a>

  • Quazi Syque Caesar, Gymnastics, Bangladesh

    After becoming a dual citizen of the United States and Bangladesh in order to represent his parents' home country, <a href="" target="_hplink">Quazi Syque Caesar rose to stardom and won the nation's first-ever international gold medal</a>, according to ESPN. "It really made me proud to wear the national jersey and really happy to be Bengali," he told the news outlet.

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