Nawal El Moutawakel

( April15.1962 - )


Born in Casablanca, Morocco, El Moutawakel is an athlete and Olympic Gold medalist. She began as a cross country runner, switched to sprinting and the 400 meters before trying the hurdles. She won the gold in the 400m hurdles in the Los Angeles Olympics 1984, the year it was introduced to the Olympic program. Her time of 0:54:61 set an Olympic record. She is the first Arab woman to win the gold in the Olympics. For Morocco this was the second Olympic medal of any sort since Rhadi ben Abdesselem won a silver medal in Rome's 1960 marathon.


Her victory in Los Angeles was totally unexpected. At 1.60 meters tall (five feet two inches) and 49 kg (just over 100 pounds), she was dwarfed by her western competitors. But she led the race from start to finish, improving her personal best by 0.76 seconds. The event was televised live at 2 a.m. in Casablanca. When she crossed the finish line in first place and took her victory lap carrying a Moroccan flag, people in Casablanca celebrated in the streets. Her gratitude is to her late father who had encouraged her to become an athlete and a champion.

In 1995, she was elected member of the executive International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), and in 1998 she was chosen to be a member of the International Olympic Committee. She is active with Moroccan organizations such as “l’Association Marocaine de Sport et Developement”, as a way to continue encouraging sports in Morocco and giving back to her country.


The Algemene Bank Maroko named its Casablanca branch the Nawal El Moutawakil bank.