As part of ASVG, Africa and the World’s celebration of pioneering sports women, today we look at former Moroccan 400m women hurdler Nawal El Moutawakel.
Born in April 1962, Moutawakel came to prominence in 1984 when at the age of 22-years, she won a gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympic games.
Her win made her the first Arab and Muslim woman from an Islamic nation to win an Olympic medal. She also became the first woman to win the inaugural women’s 400m hurdles at the Olympics.
In the Moroccan Olympic history, she became the first athlete, men and women, to win an Olympic gold medal.
Of greater significance, her win helped break the cultural barriers which had prematurely killed talents of young women in the Arab countries. Prior to Moutakawel’s heroics, there was an inherent doubt among many, more especially in the conservative Islamic countries, about the capability of Arab women in sports.
Her win opened opportunities for other Arab women in the conservative Islamic countries to transcend cultural and traditional hurdles and actively take part in competitive sport.
In her own home country of Morocco, the 59-year old El Moutakawel is still a revered and popular figure and a role model.
Since retiring from competitive sport, the Gazelle of the Atlas, as she is fondly called, has taken various roles in sports administration.
El Moutakawel has served Morocco as a coach as well as National Athletics Director. She has also served as a member of the Moroccan Olympics Committee.
She was elected to serve as a member of the International Olympic Committee in the year 1998. El Moutakawel has since then served in the Evaluation Commission which selected the host cities for the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
El Moutakawel continues to work towards the empowerment of women in sports.
We thank you El Moutakawel