Samia Yusuf Omar
|Born||25 March 1991|
|Residence||Addis Abeba, Ethiopia|
|Height||5 ft 4 in (1.63 m)|
|Weight||119 lb (54 kg; 8.5 st)|
|Event(s)||100 m, 200 m|
|Achievements and titles|
|Personal best(s)||200 m: 32.16 (Beijing 2008)|
Samia was born in Somalia in 1991, the youngest of six children. She came from a poor family and hailed from one of the country's minority ethnic groups.
In preparation for competitive meets in 2008, Omar trained under difficult circumstances, facing harassment from local militants who did not believe that Muslim women should participate in sporting activities. On account of civil unrest in Mogadishu, she also did not benefit from the consistent coaching, reliable facilities and competitive meets that other elite-level athletes enjoy.
In 2011, Samia moved to Addis Abeba, the capital of neighboring Ethiopia, where a more robust and established running culture exists. Now a middle-distance athlete, she was due to begin training with former Olympian Eshetu Tura, who was recommended to her by the prominent Qatar-based Somali track coach Jama Aden and the Olympic medalist Mohamed Suleiman. Samia hoped to be prepared in time to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
On 19 August 2012, the Corriere della Sera reported that Samia had died while on her way to Italy on a boat from Libya. The information came from her compatriot and fellow runner Abdi Bile, and was "difficult to verify" according to the newspaper. In response to the news, Al Jazeera journalist Teresa Krug, who had previously interviewed Samia and maintained contact with her, reported that Samia had left Ethiopia in 2011, crossed Sudan and reached Libya, where she was imprisoned for a time for unspecified reasons. She had hoped to reach Italy and find a coach to train for the 2012 London Games. Krug told Rina Brundu of Rosebud: "From the news reports—and her older sister, who had the death confirmed by a fellow passenger—I think the boat accident happened early April 2012. However, this did not come to my attention until a couple weeks ago when Abdi Bile informed the rest of the world".
On 20 August, the BBC reported that it had received confirmation of Samia's death from Somalia's National Olympic Committee. By 21 August, wider English-language media had begun to pick up on the story. The Associated Press reported that Qadijo Aden Dahir, the Deputy Chairman for Somalia's athletics federation, had confirmed that Samia had drowned off the Libyan seaboard in July while trying to reach Italy from her home in Ethiopia. Qadijo added that "it's a sad death...She was our favorite for the London Olympics".
Her story has been described in the book Non dirmi che hai paura ("Never say you are afraid") by Italian writer and journalist Giuseppe Catozzella. In 2015, German graphic novelist Richard Kleist published his graphic novel Der Traum von Olympia - Die Geschichte von Samia Yusuf Omar ("An Olympic Dream - The Story of Samia Yusuf Omar") at Carlsen Verlag. It was translated and published by SelfMadeHero in 2016.
"We know that we are different from the other athletes. But we don’t want to show it. We try our best to look like the rest. We understand we are not anywhere near the level of the other competitors here. We understand that very, very well. But more than anything else, we would like to show the dignity of ourselves and our country."- Samia Yusuf Omar, 2008
- "Somalia’s runners provide inspiration", Yahoo Sports, August 25, 2008
- Samia Yusuf Omar, IAAF profile
- "A Rosebud Exclusive: Samia Yusuf Omar’s Italian dream. An interview with Teresa Krug of Al Jazeera", Rosebud, 19 August 2012
- (Italian) "Samia, l'atleta somala di Pechino 2008 morta su un barcone per raggiungere l'Italia", Corriere della Sera, 19 August 2012
- "Against the Odds: Samiya Yusuf Omar", BBC, July 21, 2008
- "Somali inspiration battles against the odds", Al Jazeera, May 2011
- "Somalia Olympic runner 'drowns trying to reach Europe'", BBC, 20 August 2012
- Samia Yusuf Omar Dead: Somalia Track Star Drowned In Boat Accident Ahead Of London Olympics, Associated Press, 21 August 2012