Somali Olympic runner Samia Yusuf Omar drowned while trying to cross from Libya to Italy in April when the boat she was traveling in sank.
Despite having almost no formal training, Samia competed in the 200M women’s track event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and, while she came in last place several seconds behind her competitors, it was amazing that she was able to take part in the games at all.
Samia Yusuf Omar grew up and trained in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, and persevered despite war, poverty, a complete lack of athletics facilities, and prejudice in some areas against women competing in sports.
“Thousands of Africans regularly attempt the treacherous journey in overcrowded boats. Italian officials say at least six thousand people died trying last year.”
The runner reportedly moved to Ethiopia in October 2010, hoping to find a coach to help her train for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The Italian daily Corriere della Sera notes that Samia left Ethiopia last year and was able to reach Libya. While nothing has been confirmed, it is thought that the runner hoped to reach Italy in order to find a coach for the London games.
Samia Yusuf Omar’s fate recently came to light when Abdi Bile, a former Somali Olympic athlete, brought it up at a talk, mentioning Mo Farah, the Somali runner that moved to the UK at 12 and triumphed during this year’s London Olympics. Bile stated, “We are happy for Mo – he is our pride. But we will not forget Samia.”