Fatima Zahra Gardadi, the Moroccan athlete who won the bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the Budapest World Athletics Championships last month recalled the triumphant win in an interview with The National.
The 31-year-old broke Ethiopia’s sweep of the women’s marathon, and her now-famous celebration dominated the stage and left many to tears as she hoisted her arms in surprise before collapsing to the ground, weeping, and reveling in her third-place finish.
Gardadi was in sixth place heading into the final stages. She began the event hoping to finish in the top five to qualify for the Olympics, but she ran a smart race and ended up with her country’s first podium finish by a woman in a World Championship marathon.
In her interview with The National, she said “It’s an amazing feeling to win this medal. I’m so proud to bring this medal to the entire Arab world, and to Moroccan people specifically. It gives me even greater motivation to put in more effort to bring home a gold medal from the Paris 2024 Olympics.”
She believes that It’s a huge incentive to keep going from strength to strength in all upcoming championships.
“There have been individuals who have been against me, there have been tough circumstances. But that only increased my motivation. Because why would I let them break me, when I can use that to work harder and win more medals?” said the athlete.
Gardadi’s achievement seemed to most to come out of nowhere as she arrived in Budapest rated 159th in the world and had never competed in a World Championship before.
The Moroccan athlete, on the other hand, understood what she was capable of and was confident after months of training at her base in Ifrane, a renowned destination for endurance athletes due to its high altitude (1,665m) in the Atlas Mountains.
Originally a 5km, 10km, and half-marathon runner, Gardadi moved to the full marathon four years ago on the advice of her coach, Mustapha Al Moussaoui, who thought she had the talent for it.
“My determination has been key. When I face problems, I don’t see them as obstacles, I see them as incentives. I used all the obstacles I have faced as fuel to do better and train harder,” said Gardadi in the same interview.
Taling about the tragic Al Haouz earthquake that hit Morocco earlier this month, Gardadi said “As Moroccans, our sense of humanity is one of our strongest attributes. This earthquake has brought us together and has shown what we are really made of, our true core has shone through and we are all working together to help out.”
Gardadi is eager to lead the way for Morocco’s next generation of long-distance runners, and she believes her world debut last month was a wonderful start