Rio Olympics 2016: Sprinter in hijab makes history

Saudi Arabia's Kariman Abuljadayel after competing in a women's 100-metre heat during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo / AP
Saudi Arabia's Kariman Abuljadayel after competing in a women's 100-metre heat during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo / AP

She may not have won her race, but a Saudi Arabian athlete made history today and won the support of women all over the world.

Sprinter Kariman Abuljadayel became the first Saudi woman to compete in the 100m, finishing seventh in a preliminary heat.

Standing out from her competitors in a full-body kit and hijab, she was unable to qualify for the final of the event, but was praised heavily online for her efforts.

Abuljadayel, 22, follows in the footsteps of Sarah Attar, the first female track athlete to compete for Saudi Arabia in the Olympics in 2012, and the first to compete in a hijab.

She completed the race in 14.61 seconds, lagging far behind the current world record of 10.49 seconds set by American Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988.

But despite her extra clothing, she appeared to show off part of her mid-riff while competing in the race.

Fans took to social media to recognise her achievement in taking part in the race.

The sprinter's outfit also drew comparisons to Australian runner Cathy Freeman who won gold in the 400m in Sydney wearing a specially-designed green and white body suit.

Writing on Twitter, Bailey Witt said: 'Feeling so emotional bc (sic) Kariman Abuljadayel is Saudi Arabia's first female sprinter to participate in the Olympics. #feminism #Rio2016'

A user known as A_FarScape added: 'Kariman Abuljadayel is the first. Maybe Saudi Arabia will let more women train and maybe win sprinting events.'

And Sylvester U. Orubele tweeted: 'Karimen Abuljadayel. Well done for even representing!'
The Saudi Olympic Committee lifted a ban on women competing in the Olympics in 2012 despite strong opposition from many quarters of society.

She is one of four women from the Middle Eastern country to compete in the Rio Games alongside Attar, judoka Joud Fahmy, and fencer Lubna Al-Omair, a fencer.

Three of the four women, including Attar, train in the United States using their student status, although Attar is no longer a student.

Today's event was reminiscent of scenes from 2012 when a then-19 Attar was applauded around the 800m track by British fans at the Olympic Stadium.

Attar was born and raised in California and trains at Pepperdine University in Malibu, where she is studying art.

She has dual nationality because of her Saudi father Amer and chose to represent the Middle Eastern country.

But officials demanded that all female competitors would be dressed 'to preserve their dignity' - hence the modest, long-sleeved garments and hijab covering the hair.

It was reported before the London Games that Pepperdine University had been asked to remove photographs from an online biography of Attar because they showed her in a tank top and shorts with no hijab.

In Saudi Arabia, most women cover their heads and faces in public and wear a black cloak called an abaya.

Abuljadayel and Attar are one of a number of Middle Eastern track athletes who have competed in hijabs at the the Olympics, including Noor Hussain Al-Malki of Qatar and Shinoona Salah al-Habsi of Oman.

- Daily Mail

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