On Thursday 1st of August, Khadijah Mellah became the first Muslim Hijab wearing woman to race on a British racecourse and win. The 18 year old from Peckham, South London, made history with her mount, Haverland, as they both crossed the finish line to victory at Glorious Goodwood’s charity race, the Magnolia Cup.
The daughter of a handyman and a black belt holder in karate, she developed an interest in horses and riding at an early age but the location of her home in South London made it difficult to do anything about her love of the sport and horses. That is, until her and her mother, Selma, discovered the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton. The equestrian sports club is a registered charity that believes “riding and horse care can have a transformative effect on young people growing up in South London’s most disadvantaged communities” and provides riding lessons and support for local youth aged 8 to 18. “I think it’s so powerful to see Muslim women out there doing incredible things. Manal has run marathons and climbed summits. That’s the sort of message we need to be getting out there. She’s massively inspirational,” stated the young winner to The Telegraph.
Oli Bell, a presenter with ITV racing and patron of Ebony Horse Club, arranged for one of the equestrian club’s riders to take part in the Magnolia Cup and compete alongside renown riders such as Victoria Pendleton, former Olympic gold-medal winning cyclist, and after 2 months of intensive training at the British Racing School in Newmarket as well as expert coaching sessions with Hayley Turner, British racing’s most successful female jockey, Khadijah emerged as the champion of the Magnolia Cup, making history as the first Hijab wearing woman to not only compete on a British racecourse but also win. “When I passed the person next to me, it was like, Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening, I’m doing it’,” she told The Guardian, “and then I saw all the family and friends and I just started crying uncontrollably. It’s been amazing. Ambitious women can make it. That’s all I want to represent, be ambitious and do it.”
On the day the 18 year old was also seen sporting a Nike-branded Hijab just like Egyptian athlete, Manal Rostom. “It’s really difficult wearing a hijab, particularly during the heatwave with my helmet on. It’s hot and it flaps about,” she told The Telegraph. With current rising interests in women in sport, Khadijah’s victory marks another great achievement for not only all women in sport, but also Muslim women and women of colour. On behalf of all Muslim women, we send our Salaam and Congratulations to you sister Khadija!
Article by Sarah Maqbool