On Friday, 23-year-old athlete Madiea Ghafoor will create history when she becomes the first Baloch girl to take part at the Olympics.
The youngster, who will be representing the Netherlands in the 4x400m relay along with her team in Rio, was born and raised in Amsterdam. Her parents though belong to Lyari, and she is the granddaughter of the late Lal Baksh Rind, a senior politician whose diverse work included striving for the betterment of the relatively impoverished locality in Karachi.
Talking about her ethnic uniqueness in the Games, Madiea revealed she was unaware that she was the first female Baloch to feature at the Olympics.
“I feel honoured to be a part of this huge event and to be an inspiration for the Baloch people, especially the youth,” she said. “I had no idea I was the first Baloch girl to participate at the Games until someone informed me about that. This has made me even more determined to do the best I can.”
Madiea said she has been involved in track and field since a young age and was spotted when she was 13.
“We had a sports event at my high school where my coach Sammy Monsels noticed my potential and asked me if I would pursue formal training,” she said. “Ten years down the road, I’m training in the Olympic stadium in Amsterdam with the help of my coach Urtha Rozenstruik.”
And Madiea has impressed in her career so far. She bagged a bronze medal in the 2011 European Athletics Junior Championships in Estonia, where she finished third in the women’s 400m event, and has raced for the Netherlands in indoor European championships as well, reaching the semi-finals.
According to Madiea, she was pleasantly surprised to be selected for the current Olympics as she had had a bad year due to injury. “I was stunned when I received the news, but I was grateful as well,” she said. “I have prepared myself physically and mentally for the relay the best I could, and hope I can vindicate my selection.”
Madiea said she trains eight times a week — six days on the track and at least two sessions dedicated to gym
Her message for athletes aspiring to enter the realm of Olympics is simple, “Never give up on your dreams.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2016.