article by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com
When she competes at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Ibtihaj Muhammad will make history as the first member of Team USA to compete while wearing a hijab.
Muhammad, who is Black, secured her spot by winning a bronze medal during the fencing World Cup in Athens on January 30. She is now the second-highest-ranking fencer on Team USA’s women’s squad.
In an interview on TeamUSA.org, Muhammad said that she pursued fencing at the professional level in part to help break barriers in the sport:
“After I graduated from college, I saw there was a lack of minorities in the sport,” Muhammad told TeamUSA.org. “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, who failed to quality for the 2012 Olympics due to a torn ligament, will compete in the Rio Olympics in both the individual and team events along with U.S. Olympic champion Mariel Zagunis.
“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,” said Muhammad, who was quoted by TeamUsa.org. “I want to set an example that anything is possible with perseverance.”