When the women’s 400 m hurdles was first held at the 1983 World Championships, Nawal El-Moutawakel was eliminated in the semi-finals, seconds slower than the eventual medallists from the Soviet Union and East Germany. But with those nations boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics, the inaugural Olympic 400 m hurdles for women was wide open. El-Moutawakel scored an upset victory with a personal best time, making her the first Moroccan Olympic Champion. She was also first woman from an Islamic nation to win an Olympic gold medal, notable since sport for women was still deemed an inappropriate activity by many Muslims.
El-Moutawakel has since played a role in making women’s sports more acceptable in the Arab world. After retiring from her active career – in which she won additional titles at the Mediterranean Games (1983, 1987), the Universiade (1987), the African Championships (1982, 1984, 1985) and the Maghreb Championships (1983) – she became a sports administrator. After serving on the IAAF council, she became an IOC member in 1998, and was named a member of the Executive Board in 2008, and later served a term as an IOC Vice-President. El Moutawakel has served as Chairperson of the IOC Evaluation Commission for both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and Chairperson of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She has also been active in politics, serving as the minister of youth and sports (2007-09) and the secretary of state at the same Ministry (1997-98).
Personal Best: 400H – 54.61 (1984).