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London Olympics 2012

Dana Hussein Abdul-Razzaq

Dana Hussein Abdul-RazzaqDana Hussein Abdul-RazzaqDana Hussein Abdul-RazzaqDana Hussein Abdul-RazzaqDana Hussein Abdul-Razzaq

Dana Hussein Abdul-Razzaq, born January 3, 1986 in Baghdad, Iraq is a sprinter on the Iraqi national track and field team, coached by Yousif Abdul-Rahman. Due to the International Olympic Committee ban on Iraq competing at the 2008 Summer Olympics, there were concerns that she might be unable to participate, despite qualifying for the 100 and 200 meter sprint events. The ban was, however, subsequently lifted and she was the only athlete on Iraq's 2008 Olympic team to train within the war-torn country. In Beijing she competed in the 100 meter sprint. In her first round heat she placed sixth in a time of 12.36 which was not enough for her to advance to the second round.

Iraqi team's only woman faced many obstacles to reach Beijing, from a sniper's bullets to a lack of training facilities and religious and cultural opposition to female athletes. Before the Olympics, she was told that Iraq was shut out of the international sports competition. When her coach consoled her by saying that she could take part in the 2012 Olympics, she broke into tears - "who knows if I could live that long!" said Dana.

The 21 year old runner is the only athlete on the Iraqi team to actually train in Iraq and she feels that sports is a way to "unify the Iraqi people - no Sunnis, no Shiites, just sport for the country". Hussain is a Shiite, while her coach is a Sunni. The Iraqi female runner has received as loud applause as the champions. The only woman on the Iraq Olympic team faced many obstacles to reach Beijing. The past, however, weighs heavily on sprinter Dana Hussein. The 26-year-old runner is determined to qualify for 100 meters in London, although she says knocking down the Iraqi record she holds at 11.88 seconds to 11.38 is going to be a challenge if her training remains confined to Iraq.

Her running shoes are torn and frayed. But Iraqi sprinter Dana Hussein is undaunted.The capital is zigzagged with a network of police roadblocks, notorious for lengthy searches and security checks, making movement around Baghdad plagued with delays and frustration that deepens after every bombing that occurs - which they do with chilling frequency. One day when she was training, a sniper fired a round and it crossed near Dana and hit a nearby tree. She dove for cover," her coach Yousif Abdul-Rahman says. "Then another round hit in the field.

"As impossible as it seems, Hussein says she tries to tune out Baghdad's turmoil and focus on running.

"I'm very ambitious, despite all the challenges I face in the streets," she says. "If the street is blocked or there's shooting, I'll take a different road, because I want to reach new goals and move forward."

In addition to often not being able to even reach an outdoor field at the university where Hussein trains during the winter months, she says she has no money to fund her ambition, gets no government support, no access to a gym to do fitness training, has no indoor track to use during Iraq's sizzling summers, and no sports psychologist to advise her how to keep it all together.

"I need one, I need one psychological expert to help me concentrate,'' Hussein said.

"Despite all these obstacles and the bad security situation, I have the energy and the resolve to train, but my head is full of ideas and it distracts me and I need to focus"

Hussein competed in five track events during last year's Arab Games and won four medals, including a gold in the 400 and a silver in the 100. The achievements have boosted her confidence for a good performance in London.

"It's my dream, my goal to be good at the Olympics, anywhere they are held in the world,'' Hussein said.

When she competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she trained in Iraq while her fellow Olympians had bases abroad. Abdul-Razzaq finished 6th in her heat; stopping the clock at 12.36s. On paper, such a time would have been mediocre. But considering the fact that the Iraqi trains at an old asphalt track riddled by both bumps and sniper fire, such a performance is admirable to say the least.

Now years after the Beijing Olympics, the Iraqi sprinter is making waves in regional competitions, winning the 100 meter dash crown at the ongoing Arab Games in Doha. She ran a season’s best of 11.88s to edge out the Asian Games 200 meter dash silver medalist, Gretta Taslakian of Lebanon. Her winning time is almost half a second faster than her time at the Beijing Olympics – and at the 2011 Asian Athletics Championships held this year, where she failed to progress beyond the heats. The determined Iraqi also won a bronze in the 400 meter dash and has figured at the top of the 200 meter dash qualifying. She was a long shot, and she knew it. But five years into a sprinting career begun and continued through war and sectarian strife, certainly the 21-year-old deserved the chance to compete in Beijing.

In Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Dana never got a chance to run. Her parents were too scared to let her anywhere near sports. Certainly not on a field controlled by the dictator's ruthless son Ouday who was known for torturing athletes who underperformed. So when the U.S. invaded in 2003, Dana laced up her sneakers and took to the track. Since then, she's dodged more than just tufts of grass on the crushed 1980s concrete that serves as her training ground. Threats, checkpoints, and actual bullets have been just three of the obstacles. And with her trainer she has also sprinted past three brutal years of sectarian killings. One of only two Iraqis to compete in track and field this summer, Hussein is proud and determined to represent Iraq, despite the odds. Still, her dreams extend beyond the medals. She believes that sports can be a unifying force in her wartorn country.

See her profile at the International Association of Athletics Federations

source: www.wikipedia.org
Silver Medal in Doha - Qatar


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