US fencer to become first American Olympian to compete wearing hijab

Ibtihaj Muhammad qualified Saturday for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro by taking bronze at the Athens World Cup

Having already made history as the first Muslim to compete for the United States in fencing, Ibtihaj Muhammad is set to do so again as the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn by Muslim women.

Muhammad took bronze on Saturday in the Athens World Cup, qualifying her for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Two-time gold medalist Mariel Zagunis also qualified for the games.

“I want to compete in the Olympics for the United States to prove that nothing should hinder anyone from reaching their goals — not race, religion or gender,” Muhammad said in her biography on the U.S. Fencing website. “I want to set an example that anything is possible with perseverance.”

 

Ibtihaj Muhammad celebrates her medal win with Coach Akhi Spencer-El.

Posted by U.S. Fencing Association on Monday, February 1, 2016

 

Muhammad has won two bronze medals this season, a world cup silver medal in 2013 and has been part of seven medal-winning world cup teams, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee. The U.S. women's fencing team has medaled at the past five World Championships, including a gold in 2014.

Muhammad, a New Jersey native, would already have made history for the U.S. by competing in a hijab at the 2012 Olympics in London, but a hand injury kept her out of the games, the USOC said in a release.

The No. 2-ranked U.S. women's fencer took up the sport at 13, when Muhammad's mother noticed that fencers' bodies are completely covered, a requirement of their religion. Muhammad attended Duke University, where she dedicated herself to fencing, the USOC said.

“After I graduated from college, I saw there was a lack of minorities in the sport,” Muhammad said in a USOC release. “I recognized that I had a skill set, so I started to pursue fencing full time. I felt that it was something the squad needed. There were barriers that needed to be broken in women’s saber.”

Muhammad has been active on social media, speaking up for Muslim rights in the U.S., often calling out Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

 

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