El Moutawakel: Middle East female athletes will come to the fore

Nawal El Moutawakel
Olympic 400m hurdle champion Nawal El Moutawakel believes female athletes in the Middle East have a bright future.
Moroccan El Moutawakel became a household name in 1984 when she won gold at the Los Angeles games, the first African-born Muslim woman to do so.
She picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Laureus ceremony 12 months ago, and was convinced to join the Academy when confronted by the list of fellow members that she still considers to be “heroes”.
After watching Saudi Arabia’s Dalma Rushdi H Malhas scoop Equestrian bronze at the Youth Summer Games in Singapore last year, she believes this region will soon produce another Ghada Shouaa, the heptathlete who won gold for Syria at the 1995 World Championships.
“To see a young girl from Saudi Arabia on the podium in Equestrian, was phenomenal to us, to me,” she said.
“I was in there watching it, I started crying and broke into tears because for me it was a very special moment to see a powerful woman coming from the Gulf states to say ‘hey, I can win’.
“The future of this region is feminine. We have seen women reaching all kinds of levels in administration, as a minister, even pilot, lawyer, judges and everything. And we will see women becoming Olympic champions and world champions.
“Success can be achieved. More and more there is a strong participation of women from this region maybe it’s still shy but there is a presence.”
The former athlete was still a student when she shot to fame in Los Angeles, so she knows more than most the life-changing affects sport can have.
“A couple of years ago I was just a tiny, shy little girl from Morocco who wanted to run but I never knew I could perform one day and here I am enjoying the benefits that were given to me by sport,” she added.
“Sport has a great impact on any kind of humankind. It impacts your life for… life, forever.”