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Maria Mutola
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Maria Mutola: The Phenomenal 800m Runner From Mozambique

Maria Mutola: The Phenomenal 800m Runner From Mozambique

Let this story from one of our smart girls inspire you to be brave enough to go after your dreams because you can be anything you want to be! Maria Mutola grew up in a society where women were expected to focus on marriage and motherhood, sports were not valued, and opportunities for female athletes were limited.

Despite the odds, Mutola followed her passion for track and field and went on to achieve amazing success. As a trailblazer in her country and around the globe, Mutola has inspired countless young girls to pursue their dreams, proving that perseverance can overcome any obstacle. Her story serves as a reminder that anyone can, quite literally, reach new heights with hard work and dedication.

Early Life

Maria Mutola was born on 27th October 1972 in the poor outskirts of Maputo, Mozambique. Her father was a railway worker, while her mother was a market vendor. Mutola developed an interest in soccer from a young age.

She would play soccer with boys in her neighborhood since no girls’ teams were around then. Soccer was considered a man’s sport, and women playing soccer were shunned by the community. Nonetheless, she would compete in the city’s championships playing alongside boys and would only focus on playing good soccer.

There were instances when rival teams would bring up the issue of a woman playing soccer in a man’s team, and this would raise a lot of commotion, sometimes threatening to take away the trophies that she had helped her team win. Mutola was devastated by that state of affairs, and it soon dawned on her that she couldn’t be able to competitively compete as a woman in a ‘man’s’ sport. Little did she know that a promising career in track awaited her!

The Transition From Soccer To Athletics

In 1988, at 15 years of age, Mutola was encouraged by a literary figure in Mozambique to abandon football and instead focus on athletics, he would then become her first coach. At first, Mutola struggled with the intense training sessions she was subjected to, but soon she got used to the intensity and was ready to compete.

She won a silver medal in the 1988 African Championships in Algeria and less than a month later competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics but couldn’t manage to make it to the semi-finals at just 15 years old.

Life & Education In The United States

In 1990, she moved abroad after winning a scholarship from the International Olympic Committee to train in the US.

The 90s were a great period for Mutola as she went on to dominate the 800m, 1000m & 1500m major championships worldwide.

Her most significant moment came when she won Mozambique her first gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the 800m. 3 years later, she was awarded prize money of $1 million for winning 6 consecutive times in the Golden league competition. In the same year, she was also appointed as the United Nations Development youth emissary because of her great achievement in Athletics.

Giving Back To The Community: The Mutola Foundation

The Mutola foundation was created as a way to give education opportunities to underprivileged kids and to enable them to learn and be able to train for athletics. Mutola believes that a combination of sport and education can lead to success.

The foundation also funds trips abroad for kids that have proven to be great athletes to enable them to study and train with other great athletes.

Mutola continues to champion the community by also sensitizing the masses about HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention, a disease that is prevalent in Africa. This Smart Girl is such an inspiration for those looking to give back to their community while making a mark on society.

Learn about more inspiring girls on our Smart Girls page, or follow our Instagram page for more stories like this!

Hannah

Hannah

Founder, Smart Girl, Survivor, Champion of womens rights and kids rights

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