Meet Maria Mutola, multiple Olympic champion who is planning on retiring after this season. Read her biography and see photos and a video of her below.
Maria Mutola won the Nike Prefontaine Classic for the 16th and last time. Mutola has announced she plans to retire following the Beijing Olympics. Her sixteen consecutive wins at the Prefontaine Classic is unprecedented.
Maria de Lurdes Mutola was born on October 27, 1972 in Maputo, Mozambique. She is 35-years-old. Mutola’s father, Joao Mutola, worked for the railroad and her mother, Catarina Mutola, was a market vendor. Lurdes is the youngest of ten siblings. Six of her older siblings are from her parents’ previous marriages. As a girl, she was nicknamed Lurdinha. The elementary school that Mutola attended now bears her name.
As a young child she excelled in soccer, but had to play with the boys because there wasn’t a girl’s league. When she was just 15-years-old, in 1988, she was encouraged to go into track and field and got her first coach. That year, she competed in the African Championships and won the silver in the 800 m.
Mutola has dominated the 800 m event throughout her career. She has represented Mozambique six times in the Olympics. Her first Olympic games were in Seoul in 1988. She won the bronze in the 1996 Atlanta games and won the gold in the 2000 Sydney games. All of her wins have been in the 800m.
Other career highlights include winning the gold in the World Championships in Paris (2003), Edmonton (2001) and Stuttgart (1993). She won the silver in Seville in 1999 and the bronze in Athens in 1997. She won the gold in the World Indoor Championships in Moscow (2006), Budapest (2004), Birmingham (2003), Lisbon (2001), Paris (1997), Barcelona (1995) and Toronto (1993). She won the silver in Maebashi in 1999 and the bronze in Valencia in 2008. She won the gold in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester (2002) and Kuala Lumpur (1998) and the bronze in Melbourne in 2006.
In 2003 she was appointed an honorary ambassador to youth for the United Nations. This honor was in recognition of her outstanding athletic achievements. She has worked to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in Africa. She has established Lurdes Mutola Foundation that is dedicated to help Mozambican youth reach their potential in athletics and academically. Her foundation also works with the Mozambic Ministry of Health and UNICEF in campaigning for immunizations against measles and polio. She has made significant financial donations to her hometown, Maputo, to assist with housing and building athletic facilities.