Nabeela Parker

Track and Field Athlete

As a teenager Nabeela Parker was diagnosed with lipodystrophy, a medical condition that caused her to become diabetic and catalysed rapid muscle growth from an early age. This meant that she was singled out for a dope test when she was just 12-years-old. But she took it all in her stride and set her eye firmly on her goal of becoming a top athlete.

Years later, her tough mental attitude has paid off. Earlier this year the 19-year-old became South Africa’s newest 100m athletics women’s champion at the South African Championships in Pretoria, running her personal best time of 11.61 in the semi-final.

Parker – who is studying towards a bachelor of science degree at Stellenbosch University – is no stranger to victory on the track.

In grade nine she held the under 15 100m girls’ title and followed this up with the under 19 title as a matriculant.

She also holds the rare distinction of being a Muslim track and field athlete – something that could have complicated things somewhat, considering that the Islamic faith dictates that Muslim women cover their bodies in loose-fitting clothing.  But she tries to make sense of this in her own way, wearing shorts and a vest only when she’s running a race, and covering herself immediately after.

“I understand that when I’m running, all eyes are on me. But I’m not running to flaunt my body, or so that people can watch my body – I’m running because it’s what makes me happy and that’s the talent that God has given me.”

Her times on the track are still some way off from the qualifying standards for major international events. But with her positive mind-set, and passion for athletics the sky is the limit: “I think I’m worthy, I think I’m an athlete.”  — Fatima Asmal