As of 2010, Syria has only won one Olympic gold medal, which was claimed by heptathlete Ghada Shouaa at the 1996 Olympics. A former national team basketball player, she was raised in a Christian family and started athletics only in 1991. She had realized her athletic potential at the age of 12, however, when she successfully chased down and captured a pet rabbit that had escaped from an elderly man’s grasp. Shouaa’s breakthrough year was 1995, when she won the two most important heptathlon meets of the year, the Götzis meet in Austria and the World Championships in Göteborg. A year later, she again was the best heptathlete, winning in Götzis and at the Atlanta Olympics. She was world-ranked #1 in both 1995 and 1996. Unfortunately, Shouaa was plagued by injuries afterwards, but she managed a comeback in 1999, with a third place at the World Championships. When injuries ruined her Sydney Games, she retired from the sport. In addition to her performance at the major championships, Shouaa won gold medals at the Asian Games (1994) and Asian Championships (1993), and a silver at the Mediterranean Games (1993). At the Pan Arab Games and Pan Arab Championships, she won a total of 16 titles, apart from the heptathlon also in the long jump, javelin, high jump and 100 m hurdles.
Personal Best: LJ – 6.77 (1996); Hep – 6942 (1996).