‘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.”


LIVE: Clash on the Dunes - Andy Ruiz Jr. vs Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia

Updated 9 min 36 sec ago

LIVE: Clash on the Dunes - Andy Ruiz Jr. vs Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia

  • Full coverage of huge night of boxing - including undercard
  • World heavyweight championship being held in Diriyah, Riyadh

RIYADH: The day has finally arrived - the eyes of the sporting world turn toward Saudi Arabia this evening for the highly anticipated rematch between world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and challenger Anthony Joshua who face each other in Diriyah in the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ – the biggest sporting event ever held in the Kingdom, and a night that could rival the historic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and ‘Thrilla in Manila’ fights.

Stay tuned throughout the day for Arab News coverage below. (All times KSA)

18:30 - FIGHT ACTION: And the first action of the night is complete! Boxing out of the UAE, Majid Al-Naqbi gets a stoppage in the third round as he overpowers his Georgian rival Ilia Beruashvili in his lightweight contest to move 4-0 in his career. We are officially under way...

17:50 - In case you missed it earlier, Hollywood legend Sylvester Stallone is in the Kingdom and he was loving the weigh-in on Friday - he was particularly delighted with Ruiz Jr.'s choice of song for his entrance...

17:20 - There is plenty of boxing action for tonight's card - here is a run down of all the bouts we have to look forward to tonight before the main event...

16:45 - Fans attending the fight might be in for a chilly evening, as the heavens opened briefly earlier and the wind has been picking up...

16:00 - The very impressive Diriyah Arena was put together in less than a month, you can read about it here...

15:15 - There is also a considerable undercard for the Clash on the Dunes event - including Saudi Arabia's own Zuhayr Al-Qahtani who is facing Omar Dusary from Kuwait for the WBC Middle East title, and Arab News caught up with him ahead of his big night...

14:30 - The fans of Joshua were in good voice at the weigh-in, with thousands of British fans in the Kingdom to support their hero, while a vocal crowd of Mexicans and Americans were cheering for Ruiz. The atmosphere in the Diriyah Arena should be electric tonight...

14:15 - It’s not just the boxing world taking an interest in this fight in Saudi Arabia - Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho (known to be a big fan of Anthony Joshua) was asked who he thought would win tonight’s bout ...

13:45 - The boxing world held its breath on Friday night as the two heavyweight rivals faced off at Friday's weigh-in at Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh. See a full gallery from the showdown here...

13: 30 - The excitement is starting to build as we inch closer to the bell going in the Clash on the Dunes later tonight. You can read all this week's build-up to the huge fight in our dedicated Spotlight, highlights of which are below:

Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz Jr. weigh in for Clash on the Dunes bout in Diriyah

Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua focused on world heavyweight glory as they showcase skills at Riyadh public workout

Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua tour Diriyah stadium ahead of Saudi clash