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Dana Hussein Abdul-Razak

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakDana Hussein Abdul-Razak Al-Khafaji (Arabic: دانة حسين عبدالرزاق ), born on January 3rd, 1986 in Baghdad, Iraq is a sprinter on Iraq's national track and field team, coached by Yousif Abdul-Rahman. Dana is a runner at the distances of 100, 200 and 400 meters.

Dana holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Baghdad University, she represented the Army, Sirwan, and Electricity Clubs. More than all her accomplishments - she is a beautiful, courageous and exceptional woman.

Iraqi sprinter Dana Hussein Abdul-Razak was devastated to learn she would not be allowed to participate in the Beijing Summer Olympics.

In a controversial decision by the International Olympic Committee, a ban was placed on Iraq that barred them from competing at the 2008 Summer Olympics because of what it said was the government's political interference in sports.

Hussain cried for hours after hearing the devastating news, which arrived in the form of a letter to Iraqi officials - "She hasn't stopped. It's like finding out that a close relative has died," said her coach, Yousif Abdul Rahman.

Abdul Rahman attempted to console Hussain by assuring her that she could compete in the 2012 Olympics.

"In this horrible situation," she said, "who can say I'll even be alive in 2012?"

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakA letter was sent to Jassim Mohammed Jaffer, Iraqi minister of youth and sports, and Ali Mohsen Ismail, acting secretary general of the Iraqi general secretariat of the Council of Ministers. It stated in part:

"We deeply regret this outcome, which severely harms the Iraqi Olympic and Sports Movement and the Iraqi athletes, but which is unfortunately imposed by the circumstances," said the letter, signed by two IOC officials.

Their move stems from an Iraqi government decision in May to suspend the nation's Olympic Committee and form a temporary committee to handle its duties.

The Iraqi government thought the committee had not been operating properly and as a result undermined the sporting movement there.

The government said the original committee held meetings without quorums and had officials serving in one-year posts for more than five years. Many of the officials also lived outside Iraq, the government said.

Emmanuelle Moreau, a spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee, said it suspended Iraq's national Olympic Committee in June after the government removed elected officials and put in people the IOC didn't recognize.

She said the IOC proposed to the Iraqi government that officials come to the organization's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, "to discuss possible solutions."

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakBut she said they didn't respond. "We're extremely disappointed with the situation. The athletes have been ill-served by the government in Iraq," she said.

Moreau said Iraq missed a Wednesday deadline for the entry of athletes to compete in archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting.

She said there was a chance that track and field athletes could compete if the original committee was reinstated. The deadline for the track team to register is at the end of the month. The Games began August 8th.

A former official from the disbanded Iraq Olympic Committee said the IOC's decision was justified because the government interfered with the national committee by suspending it.

The former official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, but said he believed that the government suspended the committee out of "jealousy."

The national committee was making great strides, and the government, namely the Ministry of Youth and Sports, wanted far more control of it, he said.

The seven Iraqi athletes who were to travel to China for the Games' that August were highly disappointed by the decision, officials said. They include an archer, a weightlifter, a judoka, two rowers and two sprinters, one of whom was Dana.

Her coach called the decision unfair and said he blames "everyone": the Iraqi government and the Iraqi and International Olympic committees. In the end, Abdul Rahman said, the athletes are paying the price.

Dana Hussein Abdul-Razak"It's a shame after all their efforts, ambitions, risks and dangers," he said. "I wish from the bottom of my heart they would reconsider this unjust decision for the sake of the athletes."

Their concerns that she might be unable to participate, despite qualifying for the 100 metre and 200 metre sprint events were finally resolved when, fortunately, the ban was subsequently lifted.

In an eleventh hour reversal, on July 29th, 2008 The International Olympic Committee agreed to allow Iraq to participate in the Beijing games, reversing itself after Baghdad pledged to ensure the independence of its national Olympics panel.

The decision followed last-minute talks between Iraqi officials and the IOC ahead of a deadline to submit competitors' names for track and field events. The Olympics were to begin on August 8th.

Iraq sent two athletes to Beijing to compete in track and field. The decision came too late for five other hopefuls in archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting. The deadline to submit names for those sports had expired the previous week.

So Dana would be competing in Beijing - and in a new pair of New Balance track shoes sent by an angel lawyer from Chicago named Laura J. Hagen who not only sent her the shoes, but an undisclosed donation for Dana's travel and training expenses as well.

She also began an e-mail relationship with Dana's trainer’s niece, Esra al-Ezzi, who could speak some English in order to communicate with Dana.

She was the only athlete on Iraq's 2008 Olympic team to train at home within the war-torn country. In Beijing she competed at the 100 metres sprint. In her first round heat she placed sixth in a time of 12.36 which was not enough to advance to the second round.

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakIn 2011 at the 2011 Pan Arab Games, as if to show the IOC, Dana won Gold for the 100 metre event with a time of 11.88 - she won Silver in a 200 metre sprint with the time of 24.61 and in the 400 metre sprint she won Bronze with 55.48. Dana was the Iraqi flag bearer during the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony the following year.

Iraq's National Olympic Committee had been dissolved by the Baghdad government the previous May, prompting the IOC to suspend the Mideast country from the Olympics for political interference.

The International Olympic Committee had insisted the old committee be reinstated even though four members were kidnapped two years ago. Their fates remain unknown.

The agreement worked out for Dana to compete in Beijing calls for Iraq to hold free elections for its national Olympic committee under international observation.

"The National Olympic Committee will have fair elections before the end of November," said Pere Miro, head of the IOC's department for relations with national Olympic committees.

In the meantime Iraq's Olympic organization was run by an interim committee proposed by its national sports federations and approved by the IOC, he said.

"We want to forget all the past," Iraq's government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told The Associated Press after signing the agreement at a news conference. "We want to have real representation for the Iraqi teams and the Iraqi supporters."

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakThe breakthrough came after eight hours of talks at the IOC's headquarters in Lausanne involving Miro and Husain al-Musallam, director-general of the Olympic Council of Asia.

Hours before the talks, a delegation of Iraqi groups in Switzerland had come to IOC headquarters to deliver a letter to Olympic officials expressing dismay at their country's suspension and requesting the decision be overturned.

The IOC last suspended Iraq in May 2003 — weeks after U.S.-led troops toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. That ban occurred after the IOC learned of the abuse of athletes by Saddam's son Uday, the country's former Olympic chief.

The suspension was lifted a year later, allowing Iraq to take part in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens where it fielded 25 athletes.

Iraq's soccer team made it to the semifinals, prompting celebrations throughout a country where sports fans had very little to cheer about in recent years - as the war had claimed the lives of athletes, coaches and staff.

The Olympic cycling coach, national wrestling coach, a soccer federation member and a prominent volleyball player were killed, most in 2006 during the height of sectarian slayings.

The two athletes who will represent Iraq at Beijing have benefited from an IOC solidarity program that allowed them to train at sports facilities abroad, IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said.

Although the duo failed to meet the qualifications to go to Beijing, they were allowed to take part under the IOC's wild card scheme designed to ensure every country is represented at the games.

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakThe fact that they were unlikely to add to Iraq's overall tally of one bronze medal since its first appearance at the Summer Olympics in 1948 is of no great concern, said al-Dabbagh.

"Sport is really important for us in Iraq right now," he said. "It brings the people together."

US President George W. Bush's chief spokeswoman said Thursday she was "disappointed" that the International Olympic Committee had banned Iraq from competing in the Beijing Games in the first place.

Olympians are an elite group of individuals that represent the finest athletes of their particular genre. Both physically and mentally they are in a class all their own - they are amongst a small group of individuals that are the best in the world at what they do.

But not all Olympians are treated equally or fully supported by the country that they represent. Dana Hussein Abdul Razak dodged bullets to get to the track where she worked out. Every day she had to choose the path she followed to the place where she could run and train very carefully - her very life depended on it.

Her running shoes were torn and frayed. To train, she had to dodge sniper fire, sectarian killings and occasional car bombings. But Iraqi sprinter Dana Hussein is undaunted. Dana is no average girl. She was an extremely determined sprinter who was going to the Olympics come hell or high water. And she went to the Olympics - not only once, but twice. And she is the fastest Arab female sprinter in the world.

The 21-year-old is one of four Iraqis who had qualified for the summer Olympic Games in Beijing - and the only Iraqi who trained for the Olympics inside the war-torn country.

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakAt Baghdad University, clouds of dust would blow over the weed-choked quarter-mile track where Hussein trained. She would lay a bath towel in the dirt and do stretches under a tree in the stifling afternoon heat.

Nearby, her coach, Yousif Abdul-Rahman would nervously twirl his stopwatch. He recalls a training session during the height of the sectarian bloodshed when he and Hussein had to drive across Sunni-Shiite battle lines to try to reach the track each day.

"I think we drove through eight firefights one day," the coach says. "I thought we were going to die."

One day, the violence even encroached on this rundown track in the relatively safe Jadriyah neighborhood. Abdul-Rahman says both he and Hussein had to hit the dirt when a sniper opened fire from a nearby rooftop.

"When she was training, the sniper shot the first round, and it crossed near Dana and hit a tree - she immediately dove for cover," Abdul-Rahman says. "Then another round hit on the field."

It might seem impossible, but Dana says she tried to tune out Baghdad's turmoil and focus on running.

"I'm very ambitious, despite all the challenges I faced in the streets," she said. "If the street was blocked or there was shooting, I'd take a different road, because I wanted to reach new goals and move forward."

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakShe qualified for the Olympics in the 100 metre and 200 meter sprints, but the memory is bittersweet.

"I wanted to train and cry at the same time," Hussein said. "I'm happy because I qualified and wwas able to represent my country.

But the problems - it was so hot here and there was no training camp abroad for me. Sometimes I was not able to make it here to train because of the security situation."

Hussein comes from a sports-loving family: Her brother is a bodybuilder, and her father was a champion bicycle racer with the Iraqi national team.

In the searing 105-degree heat, Hussein used to step onto the university's ragged track - parts of which had ankle-twisting cracks and crevices in the asphalt.

She'd put on her special track-and-field sprinter's sneakers - one of the shoes was badly ripped along the seams - and she would begin to warm up.

Iraq's Olympic committee was once run by Saddam Hussein's sadistic son Uday, who famously abused athletes whom he didn't think performed well.

The committee is no longer a bastion of brutality, but it is broke, sectarian and politicized, and its members are regular targets: The committee's deputy director was gunned down at a Baghdad bus station.

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakThe Olympic committee's director and some 30 employees who were kidnapped in the summer of 2006 are still missing.

The three other Iraqis who had qualified for the Beijing games - all men - are training overseas. The committee promised Dana a training camp abroad, but it never materialized, so dodging bullets in Baghdad is what she was left with.

"The Olympic committee could not do anything to provide me a training camp," Hussein said. "They gave me one in Italy one time, but they made me go without my trainer and coach - but I preferred to just train here with my coach than to go abroad without him."

In addition, the track clothes the committee gave Dana didn't fit, so she had to sew the Iraqi flag onto running outfits that she bought with her own money.

"If I leave this sport, I think life will stop - life must continue, even with the security situation so bad, because I had ambitions. I love this sport too much."

The Iraqi soccer team's improbable win at the Asian Cup brought the shattered country together, at least for a fleeting instant.

The Iraqi sprinter knew that she was long shot to win a medal in Beijing, "As long as I have ambition, maybe I can achieve something for my country."

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazakAwards

* Two bronze medals at the tenth Arab session in Algeria in 2004
* Gold and two silver medals at the Arab Championship in Lebanon in 2005
* One silver and one in And Nazih in the West Asian Games in Qatar in 2005
* Three gold medals in the Arab championship that was held in Algeria in 2006
* Silver and two bronze medals in the eleventh Arab session in Egypt in 2007
* Three medals in the 2011 Arab Games in Doha, including a gold 100-meter race To become (the fastest Arab woman)
* she achieved a personal number of 11,81 seconds in the London Olympics

Follow Dana on Facebook

Dana's profile at the London Olympics on www.brspecial.com


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