‘Fairytale’ win for Khadijah Mellah, first British jockey to race in hijab

18-year-old Khadijah Mellah from a deprived south London neighborhood had never sat on a racehorse until April and Goodwood described her victory in the Magnolia Cup, a charity race for non-professional jockeys, as a “fairytale win.” (Photo: Great British Racing)
Updated 01 August 2019

‘Fairytale’ win for Khadijah Mellah, first British jockey to race in hijab

  • The 18-year-old from a deprived south London neighborhood had never sat on a racing horse until April
  • Mellah first began riding seven years ago

LONDON: A teenager made history as the first British jockey to compete in a major event wearing a hijab on Thursday, winning a “fairytale” victory at the famed Goodwood racecourse.
Khadijah Mellah beamed and shared a high-five with another rider after crossing the finish line on her horse Haverland ahead of 11 other female jockeys.
The 18-year-old from a deprived south London neighborhood had never sat on a racehorse until April and Goodwood described her victory in the Magnolia Cup, a charity race for non-professional jockeys, as a “fairytale win.”
Mellah, who competed against riders including former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton and presenter Vogue Williams, said before the race it was “crazy” that she was the first female Muslim jockey in British competitive horse racing.
“There’s quite a stereotype around Muslim girls and them ‘not being able to follow their sporting passions and dreams’,” she said in a statement.
“I am thrilled that I am part of a shift in social understanding of what women can achieve and what they can be good at.”
Many Muslim women cover their heads in public with the hijab, or headscarf, as a sign of modesty, although some critics see it as a sign of female oppression.
Mellah first began riding seven years ago after discovering Ebony Horse, a community riding center.
Her preparation to take part in the high-profile race was captured in a documentary called “Riding a Dream” which will be broadcast in autumn.
Mellah, who will start university in autumn, said she had “a couple of sleepless nights” as she prepared for the race.
“I want to be a role model to anyone who wants to do something that they wouldn’t initially believe was in their comfort zone and allow people to follow their aspirations,” she said.
The British-based Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation said it was “worrying” it had taken so long to reach the milestone, but Mellah was blazing a trail for others.
“It’s important because we need role models for young Muslim girls especially,” spokeswoman Anira Khokhar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “When you have people like Khadijah ... it’s phenomenal — it shows there are no barriers and there are no boundaries.”


Australia can win basketball World Cup, says USA coach

Updated 22 August 2019

Australia can win basketball World Cup, says USA coach

MELBOURNE: United States coach Gregg Popovich has tipped Australia as a key contender at the upcoming basketball World Cup in China, saying they have the ability to win the tournament.
The veteran San Antonio Spurs mastermind offered the praise ahead of two warm-up games between the nations in Melbourne this week.
“They are one of the teams that can win the whole thing, without a doubt,” Popovich said. “I’m not saying that because I’m here (in Melbourne). It’s just a fact.”
The world number one Americans will try to win a third consecutive World Cup next month with a line-up that lacks many of their NBA superstars, with the likes of James Harden, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard among notable absentees.
But they boast top young talent and will use the games in Australia to refine their identity.
They arrived in Melbourne on the back of a 90-81 victory over second-ranked Spain in Anaheim, California, and will play the Boomers later Thursday, then again Saturday before a final warm-up against Canada in Sydney on August 26.
In contrast to the five-time World Cup winners, Australia have never won a medal. But Popovich thinks this could be their year.
“They’ve been close for several years, and they are hungry. They are talented. Coach (Andrej) Lemanis does a good job, and they are a team,” he said on the USA basketball website.
“They are together. They know what they are doing. They execute really well, so that’s what it takes. They have the toughness and physicality to go with it.
“I think they are one of the top contenders without a doubt.”
While Australia boosts a handful of NBA stars, including Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingle and Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs, they suffered a setback on Monday when Jonah Bolden joined his teammate Ben Simmons in pulling out of the World Cup.
Other Australian NBA standouts not playing include Thon Maker (NBA commitments), Ryan Broekhoff (birth of his child) and Dante Exum (injury).