Hurdler Mariam Farid proud to represent Qatar

DOHA, Qatar — When she was 16 years old, 400-meter hurdler Mariam Farid played a key role in helping Doha to host one of the biggest sporting events in its history.

She was handpicked by the head of the Qatar Olympic Committee, when it presented its bid for the 2019 IAAF World Track and Field Championships, to give a speech about why Qatar deserved the bid. She said hosting this event in an Arab country could change the stereotypes and perceptions of the Middle East.

It worked.

On Friday, the 2019 world championships will begin in Doha, and four days later, Farid, now 21, will compete in the 400-meter hurdles.

Since her appointment as a Qatari team ambassador, Farid has served as a spokeswoman for the Qatari national team, starring in over 20 advertising campaigns, including ads that she and her friends frequently see on Instagram.

“You’re representing your country. You’re representing the nation. You’re representing women in Qatar,” Farid said. “It’s a responsibility, and I’m of course proud and honored. It’s something I will always be proud of.”

On Tuesday evening in 91-degree heat, Farid practiced alongside hundreds of other athletes from around the world.  The humidity made it feel like 113 degrees, and nearly everyone stripped down to sports bras or spandex shorts for their workouts.

Farid was one of two athletes wearing full body running attire and a hijab.

Farid’s parents presented her with the option of running with or without a hijab. She chose to wear it because of what it represents. And while many may assume that it gives her an athletic disadvantage, she said, “It’s the same as having long hair.”

Farid didn’t meet the qualifying standard for the 400-meter hurdles, but she received an entry because Qatar is her home country. While her personal best time of 1 minute, 10.33 seconds is 18 seconds slower than U.S. hurdler Dalilah Muhammad’s world-record time of 52.20, Farid is unconcerned about the difference. She is just excited to see her home country on the world’s stage, something she dreamed about for the last five years.

She knows that she will not win her race. She knows that she will likely not qualify for the semifinals or final. Yet she does not find this to be discouraging.

“Everyone has been last, second, third, fourth,” Farid said.

Farid hopes that someday, she can reach her goal of being a world-ranked competitor at a major championship. Yet, she is also aware that just one injury could result in her career’s end. Because of this, she is studying communication at Northwestern University at Qatar.

In fact, just one day before the practice, Farid was at her communication law class with her classmates. However, they do not view her as anything but a classmate.

“I’d be willing to bet that many of my students, when she sits there in a class of 45, have no idea that she’s a track and field athlete,” said her communications law professor, Craig LaMay. “She doesn’t advertise that.”

However, Farid is confident that this event along with the other upcoming sporting events in Doha such as the 2022 World Cup could help to change how sports are viewed in Qatar and how the world perceives Qatar.

Farid will continue to prepare—and attend class—until next Tuesday, when her determination to compete in a world track event in Doha will pay off.

“There is a story about Muslim women athletes in a particular trope that appears over and over in the Western press … that suggests strong, noble, and anything but a real athlete,” LaMay said. “I’m looking forward to the day that we cover Muslim women as athletes.”



Brooklynn Loiselle

One Comment

  1. Great kicker, Brooklynn. You did exactly what that prof said “Western press” should do: presented her as an athlete. And what an admirable young woman! The detail about her choosing to run with her hijab was especially powerful.

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