Posted by: Dr. Y. | July 7, 2012

Mozambique’s First Gold Medal, and World Greatest 800m Runner: Maria Mutola

Maria Mutola winning gold in Sydney

Maria Mutola winning gold in Sydney

With the olympics fast approaching, I have decided to feature one African athlete per week to keep us in Olympics mood. Today, I would like to talk about an athlete hailing from Mozambique: Maria Mutola.

Maria de Lurdes Mutola was born in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, and was running so fast that she was nicknamed ‘The Maputo Express’.  She specialized in 800 m, and is the 4th athlete to have competed in 6 olympic games (imagine that: the olympic games happen every 4 years… thus it took a total of 24 years of intense competition at the highest level, as a world class athlete).  As a young girl, she excelled in football(soccer), and played with boys.  Later on, she was encouraged by the great

Maria Mutola defeating Kelly Holmes at World Championships

Maria Mutola defeating Kelly Holmes at World Championships

Mozambican writer Jose Craveirinha to pursue track and field.  Her very first olympic was in 1988 at the Seoul Games, at the age of 15.  She finished last, but this made her even stronger.  After that, she dominated the 800 m distance, winning the gold medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in 1993 and 1995, and the Stuttgart 1993 IAAF World Championships.  She won the bronze medal in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympic games, and finally won a sweet Gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.  Mutola retired from track and field at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she sadly finished 5th, after being in contention for a medal.  Mutola is often ranked as the greatest female 800 m runner of all time, since her consistency, her record at major championships and her ability to compete at the highest levels of the sport for well over a decade are unmatched.

Maria Mutola raising the flag of Mozambique

Maria Mutola raising the flag of Mozambique

As a sports fan, I watched Maria at the 1995 World indoor games in Barcelona.  The year 2000 was so special, as we all saw Maria finally lift the Olympic gold medal for Mozambique, at the Sydney games.  In 2003, she became the sole winner of the IAAF $1million Golden league title, for being undefeated throughout that year at all major competitions.  I have always been a big fan of hers, even though I always thought that she had too much of a ‘male’ physique.  With that physique, she ran with power and grace, and raised the flag of Mozambique with pride.  Greatness to you Maria, you’ve made us proud!


Responses

  1. You would think that with the money she has made, she would donate to the park where all the rhinos have been slaughtered by poachers. This type of activity must be stopped, or those idiots will keep killing until entire species are extinct.

  2. […] Mutola was born in 1972 in the poor shanty town of Chamanculo on the outskirts of Maputo, then known as Lourenço Marques, the capital of Mozambique. Her father was employed by the railways and her mother was a market vendor, as a young girl she excelled in football, she played with boys, as there were no leagues or teams for girls. In 1988, at the age of 15, she was encouraged to take up athletics by one of Mozambique’s foremost literary figures, the poet José Craveirinha, who was a keen sports fan. His son Stelio, himself a former national long jump record holder who had competed in the 1980 Summer Olympics, was Mutola’s first coach, she wasn’t used to the rigorous training and so she decided that running wasn’t for her but she was convinced as potential was seen in her. After a visit to Portugal, plans were made for her to join the Lisbon-based Benfica athletics club, but at the last minute Mozambican government denied her permission. That year, after only a few months’ training, she won a silver medal in the 800 metres at the 1988 African Championships in Annaba, Algeria before competing in the 1988 Summer Olympics less than a month later. She ran a personal best time of 2:04.36, but came 7th, so she couldn’t go for the semi finals.  Attempts were made to organise scholarships for her to train abroad, but it was not until 1991 that the IOC solidarity programme made it possible, so she went to the US to study and train. She surprised many by finishing 4th in the final of the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, where her time of 1:57.63 constituted a world junior record. She lost out on a medal because she was severely impeded, elbowed twice by Ella Kovacs as she tried to pass in the final few metres, on the finish line, Kovacs fell across the line ahead of Mutola, reaching out and tripping race winner Lilia Nurutdinova as well. There was a protest but it was unsuccessful. At the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona there were great hopes for her  to win Mozambique’s first Olympic medal. She ran strongly but faded badly in the home straight, eventually finishing fifth behind winner Ellen van Langen. At the same Olympics, Mutola ran one of the few 1500m races at an international championship, placing 9th in the final. That same year she also won the 800m event at the 1992 IAAF World Cup in Havana, and was the only woman to beat Ellen van Langen throughout the whole year. The year 2000 was so special, she  finally got the Olympic gold medal for Mozambique, at the Sydney games.  In 2003, she became the sole winner of the IAAF $1million Golden league title, for being undefeated throughout that year at all major competitions. With her physique, she ran with power and grace, and raised the flag of Mozambique with pride. In essence the presence of the right set of persons present in our lives for us to succeed cannot be over emphasized because at every point in her life it was the encouragement and love of those around Mutola that helped. Reference: Wikipedia, https://afrolegends.com/2012/07/07/running-with-mozambican-pride-maria-mutola/. […]


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