Athletics: Alaa Hikmat Jassim (Iraq) Eliminated in the 100m heats yesterday

Out of the warzones: a tale of two sprinters

When the starting gun fired to begin race seven in the first-round heats of the women's 100 metres yesterday, Alaa Hikmat Jassim rose from her blocks to see her seven rivals haring down the track ahead of her.

The young Iraqi gathered her composure and ran her own race, crossing the finish line in 12.70 seconds - 1.56 seconds behind Vida Anim of Ghana and Christine Arron of France, who dead-heated for first place. When the result flashed up on the Olympic Stadium's electronic scoreboard, Ms Jassim was officially classified eighth and last.

But in the wider scheme of things, considering what she had endured to get to the Athens Olympics, she had achieved a considerable victory.

Jassim is an 18-year-old student from Baghdad. She lives in a house with a corrugated iron roof and limited water supply. She has dodged gun battles and bombings in the streets nearby, often on her way to train at al-Kishafa Stadium in Baghdad, where her starting "blocks" are holes hewn in the dirt track.

She wears second-hand running shoes given to her on a training trip to Jordan. Her father died five years ago of a heart attack. Her mother lost her job as a school teacher after an altercation with Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Baghdad is a very difficult city to live in," Jassim said, en route to the changing rooms. "Training in Baghdad is very difficult, too. When the bombing started I went six to eight months without running. I started again in March. When there are problems on the street, you cannot go to the track."

Jassim is Iraq's only female competitor in Athens. She needs no reminding of the signficance of her appearance in the Olympic spotlight. "This is the most important day of my life," she said. "I have proved Iraqi people can do anything - not just in sport. I did this for the Iraqi people - not just for the women, for everyone in my country.

"The Iraqi people must believe. All of us have suffered but we must do everything we can, even if we have had difficulties."

Asked whether she agreed with the invasion of her country, Jassim replied, with the help of an interpreter: "Removing Saddam was a good idea, but the war was a bad idea. Everything has a price. The price the Iraqi people are paying is high." She said she had no idea if she would have been in Athens had Saddam remained in power.

After eight races had been run, Jassim was the 52nd fastest of 63 competitors. Given her struggles, it was probably one of the most impressive performances of the day.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee