Noor Hussain Al-Malki created a slice of history on Friday even as she sat on the track at the Olympic Stadium on Friday with her head bowed, tears welling in the corner of her eyes and her teeth gritted from the pain of a pulled hamstring.
The 17-year-old became the first female athlete to compete in an Olympic Games from Qatar, which previously barred women due to religious and cultural protocols.
Al-Malki entered the 100 meters thanks to the wildcard system that offers places to competitors from traditionally weaker Games nations. With a personal best more than two seconds outside the world record, she was not expected to be any kind of a threat.
Sadly, her Olympic adventure lasted just a couple of seconds. As a nervous Al-Malki pushed out of the starting blocks, she immediately clutched at her right leg, wincing in pain. After a couple of steps, she collapsed to the track and stayed there as her fellow competitors sprinted toward the finish line.
Track officials came to her aid and eventually helped her from the arena. “I am sad,” Al-Malki said to an Arabic television crew as she limped past them.
Even though Al-Malki’s Games ended in a manner that no athlete wants, her journey in even getting to London is a triumph in itself. Al-Malki was able to take only a few steps down the London track on Friday, but for her, an even more important race has already been run. “I am an Olympian,” she said. “A female Olympian from Qatar. That is wonderful.”