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TRACK NOTES : Shouaa's Gold Could Inspire Syrian Girls

August 11, 1995|RANDY HARVEY

GOTEBORG, Sweden — Although few Syrian women participate in sports, Gahda Shouaa, who became the Middle East's first gold medalist in a major international track and field meet by winning the heptathlon Thursday at the World Championships, said they are not discouraged, as are women in most other Arabic countries.

In fact, President Hafez al-Assad rewarded her with a Peugeot 504 and a house when she won the seven-event competition in last year's Asian Games.

"This will encourage other girls to participate in athletics," said Shouaa, who was the center on Syria's basketball team before turning to track and field full time in 1992.

Shouaa, 21, scored 6,651 points, the fewest ever for a winner in the World Championships but 76 more than silver medalist Svetlana Moskalets of Russia. Her total was also nearly 300 more than Jackie Joyner-Kersee scored in the recent U.S. Championships, and Shouaa said she would have welcomed the challenge if the American had not left here because of an injury after last Sunday's long jump competition.

"I was sure I could do something here," she said.

Kym Carter of the United States finished fifth with 6,329 points.

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Gwen Torrence, scheduled to run the 400-meter relay for the United States and perhaps even the 1,600-meter relay, said she might withdraw from this weekend's races after her disqualification in Thursday's 200-meter final. "I don't know if I'll find the motivation for that now," she said.

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