Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Constantine, Boulmerka started running as a young girl, specialising in the 800 and 1,500 m.. She was successful in national and regional races, although there wasn't much competition. Her first major international tournament where the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, where she was eliminated in the preliminary heat of both the 800 and 1,500m.
Boulmerka's performances slowly became better, and her big breakthrough came in 1991. The first major race she won was the 800 m. at the Golden Gala race in Rome, Italy. A month later, she competed at the World Championships. On the last straight of the 1,500 m. final, she sprinted to victory, becoming the first African woman to win an athletics world title.
Her remarkable performance did not only give her positive attention. She was frequently bothered by fundamentalist Muslim groups in Algeria who thought she showed too much of her body when racing, and Boulmerka was forced to move to Europe to train. In spite of this, she was one of the favourites for the 1,500 m. gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. In the final, she fought off Lyudmila Rogachova for the gold medal. It was Algeria's first gold medal at the Olympic Games.
Boulmerka's next two seasons were not as successful, although she won a bronze medal at the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart. In 1995, she hadn't won a single race going into the World Championships in Gothenburg, but this did not prevent her from winning her second world title. It was her only victory of that season, and her last major victory. She competed at the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta, but sprained her ankle in the semi-finals. After the 1997 season, in which she did not bother to defend her world title, she retired from sports.
Boulmerka was later elected to the athlete's commission of the International Olympic Committee.
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