A 2012 Olympic hopeful, Ibtihaj Muhammad fell just shy of qualifying for the Summer Games in London where she was aiming to become the first U.S. athlete ever to compete in a hijab at the Games. The 25-year-old New Jersey native appeared to be unstoppable at competitions last month and came pretty close to making it to London.
Muhammad started fencing at age 13 when she saw her high school’s fencing team practicing. “Because they were fully covered, my mom suggested that I should try it out when I got to high school. As a Muslim female, the sport was uniquely accommodating. “My religion requires that my body be fully covered and fencing did just that,” Muhammad said in her USfencing.org profile.
Earlier this year Muhammad ranked number two among U.S. women using her weapon, the saber. But despite her success Muhammad says she still deals with prejudice in competitions.
“Within the fencing community, there’s still a lot of apprehension when it comes to encountering a Muslim fencer,” she told theGrio last month. “I mean, there are very, very few.”
“When most people picture an Olympic fencer, they probably do not imagine a person like me. Fortunately, I am not most people. I have always believed that with hard work, dedication, and perseverance, I could one day walk with my U.S. teammates into Olympic history,” Muhammad said on her Olympic team online profile. Muhammad says that fencing has taught her “how to aspire higher, sacrifice, work hard and overcome defeat. 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. I want to set an example that anything is possible with perseverance.”