Somali Olympian drowns trying to reach Europe by boat
Daniel Howden is Africa Correspondent for The Independent. He has reported from more than 50 countries covering everything from wars and elections to natural disasters and environmental crises. Special interests beyond Africa include southeast Europe, Latin America and global forests. A former Athens correspondent he has returned to Greece regularly during the European debt crisis. Now based in Nairobi, he acted as producer on the documentary 'Stolen Seas: Tales of Somali Piracy', winner of the Boccalino D'Oro prize at the 2012 Locarno film festival.
Wednesday 22 August 2012
A Somali Olympian whose determination to compete, despite the violence and chaos in her home country, had taken her to Beijing four years ago has drowned while attempting to reach Europe on a migrant boat.
The Somali National Olympic committee confirmed that runner Samia Yusuf Omar was dead and her relatives say they last heard from her in April when she was about to attempt the Mediterranean crossing from Libya.Speaking in the capital Mogadishu, her sister Hodan said that the sprinter may have been trying to get to Europe in the hope of finding a coach and competing in the London Olympics: "She decided to go by boat, and we told her not to, and my mother tried to tell her not to," she told the BBC.
"But Samia was very determined and asked for our mother's forgiveness, and my mother gave it, and she took the boat, and she died." The runner had left war-torn Somalia to try to find a coach in neighbouring Ethiopia. She is believed to have travelled to Sudan from there and on to Libya which is a major transit point for illegal immigrants trying to cross to southern Europe.
One of only two Somalis to represent the Horn of Africa nation at Beijing in 2008, she came last in the 200 metres but won thousands of admirers for the resilience she showed in getting there.
"It was the happiest moment we ever had because we took our flag," she later told broadcasters Al Jazeera. "We raised our flag. We felt like we were very important people." The young athlete had grown up in the near-constant war of Mogadishu where training facilities were laid waste and conditions for residents were appalling.
The Shabaab have regularly intimidated athletes wanting to represent Somalia and made death threats against the two Olympians who appeared at the London Games. The country's senior Olympic official was also killed in a suicide bombing at the National Theatre earlier this year.
Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
Strewth mate. Aussies wave goodbye to Britain as it becomes too pricey to stay
World news in pictures
Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
Oklahoma tornado latest: Obama pledges support for 'as long as it takes' to rebuild the suburb of Moore
- 2 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 3 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
- 4 Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
Excellent Salary Package - £60K to £120K: Austen Lloyd: We have an exciting op...
£200 - £250 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Java Developer - Urgent Requirem...
£70000 - £95000 per annum + Bonus, flexible working hours, remote work: Progre...
£50000 - £56000 per annum + Benefits package, flexible working hours: Progress...