I am participating, with an Algerian Olympic Gold Medal short story, in the #SunWriteFun writing contest for children’s writers, being held by Karen Greenwald and Jennifer Buchet.
We follow the Olympics very closely in our home, creating activities and crafts for Arab teams. We love to make flags to cheer them on during their sport. Coming up with only one story was the hardest portion of this process as I had so many to share.
I decided to write about middle-distance runner Hassiba Boulmerka because she made so many sacrifices for the love of her sport. She was spat upon and pelted with stones. Due to the death threats over her clothing, Hassiba was forced to train out of Algeria. In order to concentrate on her goal of winning, she cut off all ties with her family. She did not know her father had had a stroke and went into a coma until after she had won the Gold Medal and called home.
Hassiba ran in competitions for a few more years before retiring in 1997 to become a businesswoman. She was among the first Olympians directly elected to the Athletes’ Commission of the International Olympic Commission and known for her outspoken condemnation of restrictions placed upon women, particularly in athletics. Sports Illustrated named Boulmerka among its “Top 100 Women Athletes” list.
#SunWriteFun entries may not exceed 200 words, written in nonfiction or informational fiction and must relate to an Olympic theme. The word count for HASSIBA BOULMERKA: THE CONSTANTINE GAZELLE is 188 and I have supplied a shortlist of sources/articles to confirm it is informational fiction. The story is here.
Of course, I added food since I love educating about Arab history and culture through what we eat. To try an Algerian dish, be sure to check out this yummy lasagna.
Hassiba Boulmerka, The Constantine Gazelle By Koloud Fawzi Omar Abdul Aziz Tarapolsi It had gotten too dangerous for Hassiba to practice as a runner in her beloved Algeria. Her long legs fled across the sea to Barcelona. When Hassiba required the bathroom, she needed to tell guards. Her cleats echoed as security officers walked with her down the stadium hallway, one ahead and one behind. They protected her like the mahjouba her mama made every morning. How Hassiba missed the thick, flaky, stuffed crêpes lovingly placed in her training bag. She shook her head to get the image of her mama out. She hadn’t talked to her family in months. Some of her countrymen had become too consumed with seeing Hassiba run in tank tops and shorts. Many sent her death threats because they did not approve. Her parents and six siblings also received them. Her family believed running as graceful as a gazelle was more important than what she wore. Hassiba once heard runner Nawal El Moutawakel say “Winning had more impact in my country than any equal rights amendment would ever have had.”(1) Hassiba craved to become queen of the stadium. “I am running for all Arab women.” (2)
Hassiba Boulmerka Backmatter:
Hassiba Boulmerka went on to become the first Algerian to win a Gold Medal at the 1992 Barcelona games. She followed in the footsteps of her hero, the first African, Arab, Muslim woman, Nawal El Moutawakel, who had won Gold at the 1984 Los Angeles games.
Nawal was welcomed home by her Moroccan King, who declared all women born on her birth date would now be named Nawal.
On the other hand, Hassiba returned home to the Algerian Civil War, and a father who had slipped into a stress coma.
Hassiba gave up running and is now a successful businesswoman. Her father had a full recovery, alhamdulillah.
“It was a triumph for women all over the world to stand up to their enemies, that’s what made me really proud.” (3) Hassiba Boulmerka
(1) “Changed the Game: Nawal El Moutawakel’s stunning gold medal broke barrier for Muslim athletes.” Jason Owens. Yahoo!Sports. March 14, 2021.
(2) “Running Free.” Mark Danner and Annie Leibovitz. New Yorker Magazine. February 18, 1996.
(3)“Hassiba Boulmerka: Defying death threats to win gold.” Chloe Arnold. BBC News, Algiers. 11 February 2012.
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