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Veil no bar to glory for Muslim women says Doha champion
Nick Mulvenney | December 12, 2006 15:00 IST
The 24-year-old wore a hijab -- a scarf which covers the hair and neck -- along with leggings and long sleeves, but still outpaced her more scantily-clad rivals to win gold for Bahrain.
"I want to say I'm very thankful for being a Muslim; it's a blessing," said the sports management student.
"Wearing conservative clothes has encouraged me. Wearing a veil proves that Muslim women face no obstacles and encourages them to participate in sport. This is a glory to all Muslim women."
Al Ghasara also said it was important that her Tunisian coach Nooruddin Tajin understood her culture.
"He's a top class coach but he's also an Arab-Islamic coach who understands Muslim traditions," she said.
Bahrain's sports authorities have embarked on an ambitious programme to establish the oil-rich Gulf state as an international power in athletics by recruiting mainly African runners to compete under their flag.
Al Ghasara, the only home-grown gold medallist of the five Bahraini champions in Doha, is the product of another project and was discovered in 2000 in a talent search conducted by the Bahrain Olympic Committee.
Last December she made history when she won her 100m heat to become the first woman to win a race at the West Asian Games (WAG), which had previously been men only.
This year she trained in South Africa, Bahrain and Qatar and might have had an even better haul of medals in Doha had she not false-started in the 100m final and then got away poorly before a strong finish rescued third place.
"I also had an ear infection which I tried to get treated but it was still bothering me during the race," she said.
While her winning time of 23.19 seconds on Monday was well outside the world's best this year of 22.00, Al Ghasara harbours big ambitions for the next world championships.
"I hope next year to win the gold medal in the world championships in Osaka," she said.
Doha Asian Games 2006: The Complete Coverage