Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad is going to make international history at the 2016 Olympics in Rio! She will be the first-ever U.S. athlete to compete in the games, while wearing a hijab. Keep reading to find out the five most fascinating facts about the courageous athlete!
For starters, Ibtihaj Muhammad, 30, is absolutely beautiful and embodies everything a woman should be — confident, strong, and proud of her originality. Ibtihaj is an internationally-ranked saber fencer from New Jersey, who qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics last weekend.
1. She’s a mix of diverse cultures.
Of African-American descent, Ibtihaj was raised in a Muslim household with four other siblings. As a kid, Ibtihaj’s parents knew she had a passion for athletics, but struggled a little bit finding a sport where she could play fully covered… and then, along came fencing!
2. She tried out different sports before finding fencing.
“My parents were looking for a sport for me to play where I wouldn’t have to alter the uniform as a Muslim woman,” she told BuzzFeed. Fencing was a perfect fit because the uniform REQUIRES competitors to be fully covered. Ibtihaj joined her first fencing team at the age of 13 when she was studying at Columbia High School.
3. Her parents are supportive, but fencing is expensive!
“Most parents tell their kids before matches to do their best, or to have fun,” she continues. “My mom always said the same thing: ‘Don’t waste my money.’ Historically, it’s always been a white sport reserved for people with money. I don’t think it’s a good representation of the U.S., or of society as a whole.” Ibtihaj’s fencing journey continued into college as she was accepted at Duke University.
4. She’s fully aware of the connotations Muslims have in America.
Even though Ibtihaj is proud of her religion, she’s paying mindful attention to the fragile image of Muslims in America. “I want people to know that as hard as [these racist incidents] are on me, they don’t come even close to things we’ve seen like the shooting in North Carolina or the rhetoric around the Khan family at the DNC,” she explained to The Daily Beast. “It’s ridiculous and we as a country have to change and I feel like this is our moment.”
5. President Barack Obama is rooting for her!
Ibtihaj’s main focus right now is to bring home the gold, and she is under the direct orders of President Barack Obama to do so! After meeting Barack for the first time earlier this year, he immediately cheered her on. “I told her to bring home the gold,” he said.
HollywoodLifers, will YOU be tuning in to watch Ibtihaj? Women’s fencing starts this Saturday on Aug. 6!