Iraqi and Iranian Olympic Athletes Showcase Talent and Culture


If you love following individual athletes during the Olympics, two women from the Middle East can offer you a personal and historical perspective.

Since the International Olympic Committee decided to make an exception and lift its ban on the Iraqi team, improbable sprinter Dana Abdul-Razzaq can now compete in Beijing. Iraq's top female athlete, 21-year-old Dana began running after the US invasion of Iraq five years ago. Dana's pretty dedicated to her sport — she survived being shot by a sniper while training. Demonstrating the cultural and religious realities of her country, a modest Dana runs with leggings under her shorts. And as a Shi'ite, she trains with a Sunni coach.

Over in Tehran, Homa Hosseini trained for only two years to become Iran's first female Olympic rower. Two years ago, Iran gathered 300 young women and brought them to a course, left vacant since the Islamic Revolution, to test their abilities. Homa stood out, and now she will compete in Beijing. Homa rows in her headscarf, and unlike Western rowers, she wears loose-fitting clothes instead of a tight-fitting uniform. Good luck to both ladies!

Homa wears her culturally-appropriate uniform.

Iraqi sprinter Razzaq (L) stands with teammates as they speak to the press.

Dana Abdul Razzaq of Iraq (L) poses on the podium after winning the silver medal for the 100m race during the Pan Arab Games.

Iranian rower Homa Hosseini.

Homa trains at Azadi Stadium's artificial lake in Tehran.

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