SHAFAQNA – The Olympics in Rio may have started off with fears of a terror attack, but these were soon replaced by talk of the proficiency of Muslim athletes who are breaking stereotypes.
Although many Muslim athletes from around the world competed in the Games, here we highlight the stories of four exceptional Muslim Olympians. Britain’s Mo Farah overcame the shock of a mid-race fall on Saturday to take a second straight Olympic 10,000m title and extend his remarkable record at global championships.
Farah tumbled in the 10th lap after being clipped by American training partner Galen Rupp. But he brilliantly recovered to accumulate a second 10,000m title to add to the 5,000m gold he also won in London four years ago. “When I went down, I thought, ‘Oh my God, that is it’. I just got up and wanted to stick with the guys and stay strong,” said Farah. “It’s never easy but everyone knows what I can do.”
After he won the race, Farah bowed down in prayer. For him, prayer is an integral part of his success. “I normally pray before a race,” Farah said. “I read dua [Islamic prayers or invocations] think about how hard I’ve worked and just go for it.” Egyptian weightlifter Sara Ahmed said she had blazed a trail for women athletes after becoming the first female from her country to stand on the Olympic podium with weightlifting bronze at Rio.
Sara Ahmed, wearing a sports hijab, lifted 255 kg in the women’s 69kg weightlifting competition to finish third behind Chinese gold medallist Xiang Yanmei and Kazakhstan’s Zhazira Zhapparkul, who claimed silver. The 18-year-old’s bronze was Egypt’s first weightlifting medal since 1948. It was also the first awarded to a woman from the Arab country at an Olympics in any category, however, another was due to be awarded retrospectively.
Sara, who took up weightlifting aged 11, said she expected her historic appearance on the Olympic podium would help pave the way for other aspiring female athletes in Egypt. In 2011 the International Weightlifting Federation approved the wearing of full-body unitards, benefiting Muslim women. Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad came to the Rio Games determined to show the world that Muslim-American women could compete in elite sports
The 30-year-old from New Jersey, the first US Olympian to wear a hijab during the competition, came away with a bronze medal in the women’s team sabre event. Muhammad, who runs her own fashion shop which specialises in women’s clothing, has in recent years been involved in a US government-backed programme to empower women and girls through sport.
In response to Donald Trump’s proposed ban Muslim immigrants to the US, Muhammad had responded, “I’m African American. I don’t have another home to go to. My family was born here. I was born here. I’ve grown up in [New] Jersey. All my family’s from Jersey. It’s like, well, where do we go?”
Her teammate Wozniak, who had dyed her hair purple, said, “This is a sport. It doesn’t matter what hair colour you have, what religion you are. The point is to go out there and be the best athlete you can be, and I think we’re the best explanation of what America is, a mix of so many different cultures and races and everything all together.” Saudi Arabia sprinter Kariman Abuljadayel made history as she became the first woman from the Kingdom to compete in the 100m sprint.
Wearing hijab in a searing heat of Rio de Janeiro, the 22-year-old failed to qualify for the final after finishing seventh but won the respect of the fans from all over the world. She became the third female athlete from the Kingdom and second racer after Sarah Attar to compete in the Olympic Games. In the 2012 London Olympics, Attar also wore hijab as she competed in the 800m marathon race.
Abuljadayel was not the only woman competing in 100 meter sprint wearing hijab, as Afghanistan’s Kamia Yousuf also took part in the race, and finished in the last place.