Ruqaya Al Ghasra

Maryam Yusuf Jamal

Maryam Yusuf Jamal (ማሪያም፡ ዩሱፍ፡ ጃማል) (مريم يوسف جمال) (born Zenebech Tola) (ዘነበቸ፡ ቶላ) (born September 16, 1984) is a Bahraini middle distance runner. Born in Ethiopia, 2005 was her first full season. She gained the national record and led the world in the 3000 m in July 2005 with a time of 8:28.87 at a race in Oslo. She is the current IAAF world champion in the 1500 meters.

Jamal will represent Bahrain at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.


Jamal was born in the Arsi Zone in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia, an area famous for distance runners, including Haile Gebreselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba. She was born into the Christian tribe of Oromo, and fled with her husband, Tariq Yaqoob, due partially to political and economic problems. Jamal had run a qualifying time for the 2004 Summer Olympics, but was allegedly refused permission to represent her home country by the Ethiopian Athletic Federation due to the competition in the country as well as politics. In 2004 she and her husband sought political asylum in Lausanne, Switzerland. She applied for multiple citizenship papers before Bahrain granted them to her that same year. First, she applied for citizenship in America, Canada and France. Bahrain, eager to gain a sporting image, granted this in exchange that she change her name to an Arabic one and that she compete in the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar in 2006. She was allowed to keep her religion though.


Based in Lausanne, Jamal often trains at altitude in St. Moritz. She is trained by her husband Tariq Yaqoob (who was Mnashu Taye before being granted Bahraini citizenship with his wife).


After winning the 3000 m in Oslo on July 14, 2005, her image was published throughout the international sporting press. Her outfit of short shorts and a sleaveless midriff bearing top caused a minor outrage in Bahrain led by MP Hamad Al-Muhannadi. In 2004, Bahraini champion Ruqaya Al Ghasra competed in the Athens Olympics fully covered. Bahrain Athletics Association vice-president Mohammed Jamal said the association was already planning to give new sportswear to Ms Jamal, which covered her stomach and her legs down to the knee. However comments by Mohammed Jamal show that to be unlikely to actually occur.

Oil and foreign runners

Maryam Yusuf Jamal was previously an Ethiopian runner before gaining Bahrian citizenship. Ethiopia is famous for its middle and long distance runners. Due to the toughness of the competition in Ethiopia and the political bureaucracy, she was not able to make the Ethiopian national team and could not have the resources to develop her capabilities. Accordingly, she applied to rich countries who do not have a strong middle-distance running team, including USA, Canada and France. Once rejected, she applied to the Oil-rich Bahrain and got her citizenship.

Kuwaitis complained about the fairness of Bahrain's use of foreign runners who came from very poor countries to win medals. Ali Y. Husain, the treasurer of the Kuwait's Olympic Committee, said "A Kuwaiti may win a bronze medal, but it's better than giving money to people from outside for a gold medal."

World Championship

At the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Jamal passed Yelena Soboleva in the last 200 meters to win the women's 1,500 meters, winning the only gold medal for Bahrain.

Personal Bests

Distance Mark Location Date
800 m 1:59.69 Geneva June 11, 2005
1500 m 3:56.79 Rieti June 14, 2005
3000 m 8:28.87 Oslo July 29, 2005
5000 m 14:51.68 Hengelo May 29, 2005
1/4 Marathon 34:19 Lausanne October 24, 2004
1/2 Marathon 1:11:43 Uster September 18, 2004

External links


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