A new golden age of Muhammads at Rio Olympics

A new golden age of Muhammads at Rio Olympics
4 min read
23 Aug, 2016
The most popular Muslim name has brought good luck to the British Olympic team, in a testament to the success of multiculturalism, blogs Jamil Hussein.
Team GB superstar Mo Farah prays and gives thanks after his races [Getty]

As Team GB athletes arrive back in Britain to a heroes' welcome, many impressive statistics and feats have been cited by experts and the media about the Games.

Team GB won 67 medals and 27 of those were gold, putting Britain second in the medal table and making it the most successful Olympics for Britain since 1908. 

Team GB bagged more medals than in London 2012 and became the first ever nation to improve on their home medal haul at the following Games.

Team GB athletes won more gold medals across more sports than any other nation - 15, and were above China in the medla table for the first time since 1984.

The number crunchers however missed out on another curious stat - variations of the name Muhammad were the most successful for Team GB during Rio 2016.

The number crunchers however missed out on another curious stat - variations of the name Muhammad were the most successful for Team GB during Rio 2016

It's a stat that will no doubt infuriate Islamophobes and racists in Britain. Not only is a Muslim the current British Bake-Off champion, PFA Footballer of the Year and the London mayor, but a name that is inextricably linked with the Prophet of Islam tops the names table for Team GB.

Name _Gold_ _Silver_ _Bronze_ _Total_

Mohamed/
Muhammad

3 1 0 4
Jason 3 0 0 3
Laura 3 0 0 3
Scott 2 2 1 5
Chris 1 1 2 4
Daniel 0 3 1 4
James 0 5 0 5
Team GB's medal count
by most popular name

With three gold medals and a silver, Muhammed takes top spot from the more "traditional" Jason and Laura, which have three gold medals each.

Long-distance runner Mohamed "Mo" Farah won golds in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres events, whilst rower Mohamed Sibhi secured gold in the men's coxless four. Lutalo Muhammad was only a second away from taking gold, but snatched defeat and had to settle for silver in the Taekwondo.

The three golds connected with the name Jason all belong to one man - cyclist Jason Kenny. His fiancée and fellow cyclist Laura Trott won two gold medals, while hockey player Laura Unsworth took the third gold for Laura.

Other popular British names like Scott and James did well on the medal count, winning more overall, but failing to win as many golds.

Interestingly when Team GBs Muhammads are compared with the equivalent from the rest of the world, they come out on top again.

Team GB Muhammads vs World Muhammads

Interestingly when Team GBs Muhammads are compared with the rest of the world, they come out on top again.

Mo Farah CBE, the most successful British track athlete
in modern Olympic history, was an immigrant
from Somalia [Getty]

In second place behind Britain's Muhammads, it's the US with a gold and bronze. Dalilah Muhammad won the Women's 400m Hurdles, while fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad - the first US Olympian to compete while wearing a hijab - took bronze with her teammates in the Women's Team Sabre event.

Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria - all Muslim-majority countries which have many more Muhammads than Britain - each saw a Muhammad winning a bronze medal. But just the one each.

It's no huge surprise that athletes with the name Muhammad are popping up on the medals tables for Team GB - after all, Muhammad is thought to be the most popular boy's name in Britain when all variations of the name are combined.

In these games, however, there were many more Chrises and Jameses competing than Muhammads - but the latter still came out on top.

Two other Muhammads competed for Team GB in Rio. Mahama Cho just missed out on a medal by coming fourth in the Taekwondo while boxer Muhammad Ali - named in homage to The Greatest - crashed out in the opening stages.

Team GB’s success has given Britain a post-Brexit nationalistic fervour. Unlike the nasty, xenophobic sentiment that dominated the Brexit debate, this nationalism seems inclusive

Nationalism without the racism and hate

Team GB's success has given Britain a renewed post-Brexit nationalistic fervour. Unlike the nasty, xenophobic sentiment that dominated the Brexit debate, this nationalism seems much more inclusive.

It includes practicing Muslim athletes like Mohamed "Mo" Farah supplicating after winning gold. It includes athletes that are immigrants or from immigrant families. It includes foreign coaches that help Britain become a world leader in sports like rowing and cycling.

It is an affirmation of how multiculturalism, diversity and collaboration make Britain great.

All of which is a kick in the teeth for the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant contingent, who must watch as the name of the Prophet of Islam becomes not only one of the most popular in Britain, but also the most successful for Team GB in the Olympic Games.

Jamil Hussein is a London-based journalist, analyst and sports fan. Follow him on Twitter: @Jam1lH