LONDON: Judoka Wojdan Shaherkani became the first female Saudi athlete to compete at the Olympic Games, but her historic debut lasted just 82 seconds.
Looking nervous and wearing a swimming cap-style head covering, she was beaten by Melissa Mojica of Puerto Rico in the first round of the women’s under-78kg category.
“I’m glad and honoured to participate in the Olympic Games and I will continue to practise this sport,” said Shaherkani.
Heavyweight Shaherkani was only given the go-ahead to fight at the Olympics after a row over the wearing of a hijab was resolved. Shaherkani was one of two women sent from the conservative kingdom to an Olympics for the first time, but the Saudis only agreed on condition that their athletes respect a strict dress code.
The second competitor is American-raised 800m runner Sarah Attar who grew up mostly in California, where she took up cross country running. Attar appears without a headscarf in her official London 2012 photo.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.