Maryam Yusuf Jamal

Jamal at the 2010 Aviva Grand Prix
Medal record
Women's athletics
Representing  Bahrain
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 2012 London 1500 m
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 2007 Osaka 1500 m
Gold medal – first place 2009 Berlin 1500 m
World Indoor Championships
Silver medal – second place 2008 Valencia 1500 m
Bronze medal – third place 2014 Sopot 3000 m
IAAF World Cup
Gold medal – first place 2006 Athens 1500 m
Asian Games
Gold medal – first place 2006 Incheon 800 m
Gold medal – first place 2006 Incheon 1500 m
Gold medal – first place 2010 Guangzou 1500 m
Gold medal – first place 2014 Incheon 1500 m
Gold medal – first place 2014 Incheon 5000 m
Asian Cross Country Championships
Gold medal – first place 2007 Amman Senior race
Gold medal – first place 2009 Manama Senior race

Maryam Yusuf Jamal (Arabic: مريم يوسف جمال; Oromo: Maryam Yuusuf Jamaal) (born Zenebech Tola) (born 16 September 1984) is an Ethiopian-born Bahraini middle-distance runner. She is the first Bahraini athlete to win an Olympic medal, a gold (originally bronze, but later upgraded after two doping violations) in the 1500m women's race, in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[1] This was also the first Olympic medal won by a woman representing a Gulf state.[2] Born in Ethiopia, 2005 was her first full season. She gained the national record and ran the fastest 3000 m of the year, with a time of 8:28.87 at a race in Oslo. Jamal is a two-time world champion in the 1500 m, having won at the 2007 and 2009 World Championships in Athletics.

She represented Bahrain at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, finishing fifth in the 1500 m final.[3] Jamal has also had much success at regional competitions: winning two gold medals at the 2006 Asian Games in addition to the Asian Cross Country Championships in both 2007 and 2009.

Early life and transfer

Jamal was born in the Arsi Zone in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia, an area famous for distance runners, including Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba. She is Muslim,[4] and is of Oromo background.

Jamal later left Ethiopia with her husband, Tariq Yaqoob, due partially to political and economic problems. She had run a qualifying time for the 2004 Summer Olympics, but was allegedly refused permission to represent her home country by the Ethiopian Athletic Federation due to the competition in the country as well as politics.

In 2004, she and her husband sought political asylum in Lausanne, Switzerland. She applied for multiple citizenship papers before Bahrain granted them to her that same year. First, she applied for citizenship in the US, Canada and France.[5] Bahrain, eager to gain a sporting image, granted this in exchange that she change her name to an Arabic one and that she compete in the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar in 2006.

Based in Lausanne, Jamal often trains at altitude in St. Moritz. She is trained by her husband Tariq Yaqoob (who was Mnashu Taye before being granted Bahraini citizenship with his wife).

Competing for Bahrain

Jamal competing at the FBK Games 2007.
Jamal competing at the FBK Games 2007.

She ran at the 2005 World Championships in Athletics, but was obstructed in the final, which resulted in the disqualification of the silver medallist Yuliya Chizhenko. She beat the event winner, Tatyana Tomashova, soon afterwards to take the gold at the 2005 IAAF World Athletics Final. After a bronze medal performance at the 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships, Jamal beat Tomashova twice more at major events the following year, bringing Asia victory in the 1500 m at the 2006 IAAF World Cup and winning at the 2006 IAAF World Athletics Final. She closed the year with an 800/1500 m double at the 2006 Asian Games.

She turned her skills to cross country running at the start of 2007: she took first place at the Cinque Mulini and went on to win the individual and team gold medals at the Asian Cross Country Championships. At the 2007 World Championships in Athletics in Osaka, Jamal passed Yelena Soboleva in the last 200 metres to win the women's 1500 metres, winning the only gold medal for Bahrain. She made it a third consecutive World Final victory at the 2007 IAAF World Athletics Final, finishing ahead of Soboleva (who was later disqualified for switching urine samples to avoid drug testing).

At the start of the next season, she competed at the 2008 IAAF World Indoor Championships and ran a close indoor 1500 m against Gelete Burka. Sobeleva set a world record for the victory but was later stripped of the title. Burka was elevated to gold while Jamal gained the silver medal, which she won in an Asian record time of 3:59.79. She did not build on her World Championship success with an Olympic medal as she finished fifth in the 1500 metres at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Another win at the 2008 IAAF World Athletics Final closed the year.

Jamal became the first female athlete to win twice at the Asian Cross Country Championships, taking her second gold and competing in Bahrain for the first time. She ran at the 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Championships at finished ninth overall. Making up for her Olympic defeat, she defended her world title on the track with a win at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics, just staying ahead of Lisa Dobriskey at the finish line. A fourth-place finish at the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Final brought an end to a successful season.

In 2010, Jamal competed on the inaugural Diamond League circuit, including a second-place finish behind Sentayehu Ejigu at the Herculis meeting. Later that season, she ran at the 2010 Asian Games and managed to retain her title over 1500 m.[6] She later opened her 2011 with a win at the Eurocross, following on from compatriot Mimi Belete's win the previous year.[7]

In the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Jamal placed third in the 1500m race, finishing in 4:10:74, behind Asli Cakir Alptekin and Gamze Bulut, both of Turkey. Alptekin was later given an eight-year ban for biological passport violations, a doping related offense, and stripped of her gold medal. Gamze Bulut was also later suspended for biological passport irregularities and was stripped of her silver medal on March 29, 2017. Four of the other finishers in the first nine finishers have also been linked to performance-enhancing drugs.[8]

Belated Olympic Gold for 2012 London Olympics

In November 2017, Maryam Yusuf Jamal was advanced to the gold medal, although the IOC has yet to determine what to do with the silver and bronze medal due to doping violations of the original 4th and 5th place finishers, and numerous other finalists. Eventually the silver and bronze medals were controversially awarded to past drug users, but people who not been found to be doping at the actual London Olympics.


After winning the 3000 m in Oslo on July 14, 2005, her image was published throughout the international sporting press. Her outfit of short shorts and a sleeveless midriff bearing top caused a minor outrage in Bahrain led by MP Hamad Al-Muhannadi. In 2004, Bahraini champion Ruqaya Al Ghasra competed in the Athens Olympics fully covered. Bahrain Athletics Association vice-president Mohammed Jamal said the association was already planning to give new sportswear to Ms Jamal, which covered her stomach and her legs down to the knee. However comments by Mohammed Jamal show that to be unlikely to actually occur.

Personal bests

Distance Mark Location Date
800 m 1:59.69 Geneva June 11, 2005
1500 m 3:56.79 Rieti June 14, 2005
3000 m 8:28.87 Oslo July 29, 2005
5000 m 14:51.68 Hengelo May 29, 2005
Quarter marathon 34:19 Lausanne October 24, 2004
Half marathon 1:11:43 Uster September 18, 2004

See also


  1. ^ "Olympics-Women's athletics 1500m medal results". Chicago Tribune. 10 August 2012. Archived from the original on 12 March 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Female Gulf athletes make their mark in London Olympics". Agence France-Presse. 13 August 2012.
  3. ^ "Record Bahrain team for Games", Gulf Daily News, April 29, 2008
  4. ^ Burdsey, Daniel (21 November 2006). British Asians And Football: Culture, Identity, Exclusion. 2007: Taylor & Francis. p. 30. ISBN 0415395003.CS1 maint: location (link)
  5. ^ Maryam Yusuf Jamal applied to US, Canada and France before approaching Bahrain
  6. ^ Jamal captures 1500m title in Guangzhou – Asian Games, Day 3. IAAF (2010-11-24). Retrieved on 2011-02-27.
  7. ^ Wenig, Jorg (2011-02-27). Jamal and Moroccan men dominate in Diekirch. IAAF. Retrieved on 2011-02-27.
  8. ^ Gambaccini, Peter. Update: How Tainted Was the Women’s 1500 in London? Runners World, March 7, 2016, accessed December 13, 2016 at
Sporting positions Preceded byIsabella Ochichi Women's 3,000 m season's best 2005 Succeeded byMeseret Defar