Controversy at World University Games: Untrained Somali Runner’s Performance Causes Outrage

The recent performance of Nasra Abukar Ali, a seemingly untrained 20-year-old Somali runner, during the women’s 100-meter race at the World University Games in Chengdu, China, has ignited international outrage and caused a scandal within the Somali sports administration.

Details of the Race

Nasra Abukar Ali completed the 100-meter heat in an agonizingly slow 21.81 seconds, finishing dead last. Brazil’s Gabriela Silva crossed the finish line a full 10 seconds ahead of her, and the event’s cameras even panned back to capture Ali still running as her competitors slowed down. Such a performance has led many to question how Ali was allowed to represent Somalia in the event, sparking allegations of nepotism and incompetence within the government and sports administration.

Ali’s Performance

  • Started sluggishly out of the blocks and quickly faded far behind the pack
  • Finished more than 8 seconds slower than the second-last runner
  • Finished with a small skip across the finish line
  • The performance was viewed as a catastrophe for Somalia, causing both ridicule and anger on social media

Investigation and Suspension

The Somali Ministry of Youth and Sports investigated the selection of Ali for the World University Games. On Tuesday, the ministry called for the suspension of Khadija Aden Dahir, chairwoman of the Somali Athletics Federation, after a preliminary investigation revealed several issues:

  • Ali was identified as not a sports person nor a runner
  • Dahir allegedly engaged in acts of abuse of power, and nepotism, and defamed the name of the nation
  • It was reported that Ali is the niece of Dahir, sparking allegations of nepotism
  • The ministry intends to pursue legal action against the Chairman of the Athletics Federation and individuals responsible for the falsification of the Somali University Sports Association

Minister of Youth and Sports, Mohamed Barre Mohamud, publicly apologized for the incident and expressed embarrassment for Somalia. Furthermore, the Association of Somalia Universities claimed it had not sent any runners to the event, and there was no registered Somali University Sports Association.

A loophole in World Athletics Regulations

World Athletics does have one loophole that might have been exploited in this case. Yahoo Sports reports, “Countries who have no male and/or no female athletes who had achieved the entry standard or considered as having achieved the entry standard or a qualified relay team, can enter one unqualified male athlete or one unqualified female athlete in one event of the championships.” This regulation often results in countries entering an unqualified athlete in the 100-meter race.

Comparative Cases

This is not the first time an unqualified athlete has participated in international competitions. The incident brings to mind Ka’Alieena Bien of the Marshall Islands, who finished the 100-meter race at the 2022 World Athletics Championships at 14.71 seconds, well behind the 10.67-second gold medal-winning time.

Lessons and Future Steps

The controversy surrounding Nasra Abukar Ali’s participation in the World University Games serves as a lesson for sports authorities globally. The incident has highlighted the need for:

  • Transparency: Clear guidelines and transparent processes for selecting athletes must be established and adhered to.
  • Accountability: Individuals in positions of power must be held accountable for their decisions, especially when they impact the reputation of a nation.
  • Regulatory Oversight: International bodies must close loopholes that allow unqualified athletes to participate, ensuring that competitions remain fair and credible.


The incident has brought serious concerns about nepotism, governance, and oversight within the Somali sporting community. With investigations underway and legal actions pending, this controversy is set to have lasting implications for sports administration in Somalia and potentially internationally. As social media continues to buzz with reactions, the world is watching how Somalia will handle this complex and profoundly embarrassing situation.

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