by Nedjma Ouerdane
Meet Myriam Soumaré, a young French Muslim athlete who swapped her veil for her track shoes this summer at the European athletics championships in Barcelona and brought 3 medals home - gold for the 200m, silver for the 100m and bronze for the relay 4 x 100m.
Unknown to the world of athletics until now, twenty three year old Myriam has stunned commentators with her athletic prowess breaking a new record by sprinting 200m in less than 23 seconds. This young woman clearly has a natural ability in athletics as not only did she start the sport relatively late at the age of 18, but also because she practices it as if it were a hobby! Myriam trains only 4 times a week and works part time as a paediatric nurse – a job she has no intention of quitting even as a European athletic champion.
The best thing about Myriam Soumare’s winning performance is the symbolic value it has taken on in French society. A Muslim woman of immigrant origin flying the flag for France has done wonders in discrediting French politics’ increasingly xenophobic trend.
So while the country’s politicians have been busy explicitly associating immigration with delinquency, Soumaré has been busy proving that immigrants are perhaps more likely to become national champions!