Don’t laugh at the Somali sprinter who placed last at the World University Games’ 100-meter dash. That could be your time.

Reading Time: 2 minutes
  • Nasra Abukar Ali, a Somali sprinter, took more than 20 seconds to finish a 100-meter race.
  • The fastest 100-meter women’s sprint recorded was 10.49 seconds.
  • Abukar is slow, but plenty of people could be slower, exercise sciences professor says.

Last place doesn’t typically earn notoriety.

But on Tuesday, a 20-year-old Somali sprinter attracted international attention after footage of a qualifying women’s 100-meter race at the FISU World University Games in Chengdu, China, went viral on social media.

The video shows the seemingly ill-prepared runner, Nasra Ali Abukar, immediately trailing behind five other university-level athletes as she disappears from the camera’s frame. Her results were 21.81 seconds — 10.23 seconds slower than her first-place competitor, Gabriela Silva Mourão.

“It’s slow,” Iain Hunter, a professor of exercise sciences at Brigham Young University, told Insider. “It wouldn’t be a good high school time, no matter what high school you’re at.”

Abukar’s performance was so stark in comparison to her competitors that Somalia’s sports minister, Mohamed Barre Mohamud, publicly apologized on Wednesday and ordered the chairwoman of the country’s athletics federation to be suspended, Associated Press reported.

Mohamud pledged to investigate how Abukar ended up representing the country, per The Washington Post.

Some on social media have criticized the decision to submit Abukar for the event, saying that it’s an embarrassment for the African country. Others have lightheartedly called the moment an opportunity to showcase the extraordinary athletic prowess of her competitors.

At the Olympic level, top 100-meter women’s sprinters clock in 10- to 11-second times. And races are often decided at fractions of a second, Hunter, the exercise sciences professor, said.

“It’s not uncommon to find something like the top five (sprinters) separated by even sometimes two or three-tenths of a second,” he said.

Elaine Thompson-Herah, a 31-year-old Jamaican sprinter, placed first at the 2022 Tokyo Olympics’ 100-meter dash with a 10.61-second time. Second place was Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at 10.74 seconds.

What about the average runner?

For a runner in general, Hunter surmises that a 20- to 30-year-old woman might be able to clock somewhere between 16 to 17 seconds.

“Just kind of a ballpark guess,” he added.

It’s harder to know what kind of times the average, untrained runner or office worker who is moderately active would get.

Hunter is certain of one thing: There would be “plenty of people” who couldn’t run a 100-meter dash in under 21 seconds.

“Yeah, I can think of a few people I know who I think — even though it’s not age-related — there’s no way they could run under 21 seconds for a hundred-meter dash.”

The professor also added that it’s not wholly uncommon in the Olympics for developing countries to send individuals who might not perform well but can experience a rare opportunity to compete with world-class athletes.

“So in the first rounds of swimming and running, you’ll often see someone who might run a 21-second 100 (meter) or barely finish the 50-meter freestyle and it looks like they’re gonna drown,” he said. “It’s trying to provide opportunities for developing countries to get some exposure to what the Olympics is.”

At the end of the race, the first-place-sprinter Silva Mourão makes a small religious hand gesture to praise her win. Seconds later, a winded Abukar is seen doing a quick whimsical skip across the finish line.