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16 Apr 2007
IOC News

The Woman Who Overcame All the Hurdles

Nawal El Moutawakel, one of the most famous Moroccan athletes, celebrated her 45th birthday yesterday – giving us a chance to look back on the brilliant career of a lady who won the women’s 400m hurdles at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, becoming the first female Olympic champion from an Islamic nation.

A great moment in the history of Moroccan women’s Olympism
Los Angeles, 8 August 1984, the final of the women’s 400 metre hurdles: from the first hurdle, Nawal El Moutawakel was ahead of her rivals. She never gave away her lead and won the race in 54.61 seconds, thus becoming the first Olympic champion in the women’s 400m hurdles - a new event on the Olympic programme.
Nawal El Moutawakel won a personal victory (improving her record by 0.76 seconds), but also a victory for Morocco, which she made proud by doing a lap of the stadium with the national flag. Indeed, she was the first Moroccan athlete - male or female - to win a gold medal.

A committed athlete
Her athletic performances were only the beginning of a long sports career. Nawal El Moutawakel was a coach, then member, vice-president and director of various national and international sports committees and federations.
She became an IOC member in 1998 and quickly became very actively involved, particularly with respect to the problems linked to doping, the IOC reforms, and the growth in women’s participation in sport at all levels. Besides this, she chaired the Evaluation Commission for the Games of the XXX Olympiad in 2012, becoming the first woman to chair an IOC Evaluation Commission.
As for up-to-the-moment news, she currently chairs the Moroccan Sport and Development Association, which is organising the ninth edition of the Ladies’ Fun Run, taking place on 20 May 2007 in Casablanca.
But it doesn’t stop there: she juggles her sporting career with her role as a mother and a professional career.

Greater female presence in the IOC
Nawal El Moutawakel is symbolic of the IOC’s policy which aims to promote the presence of women, not only in sporting activities at the Olympic Games, but also within the IOC’s and Olympic Family’s administrative and management entities. Indeed, more sports and disciplines have been made accessible to women (weightlifting, cycling, taekwondo, etc.) and, currently, any new sport admitted to the Games must include women’s events. Furthermore, one of the IOC’s main goals commits the organisations belonging to the Olympic Movement to reserving 20 per cent of their decision-making positions for women. Among other things, there is a programme of regional seminars for female managers, coaches, technical officials and journalists at national and international level, and a special “Women and Sport” programme aimed at assisting women from developing countries in particular.

An example for women and men alike
Nawal El Moutawakel was able to go all the way with her dream, despite the difficulties. She thus became an example of courage and perseverance for all athletes, and an model of success for all women.
Learn more on Nawal El Moutawakel as an IOC member
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