Saudi Arabia has confirmed it will send two women to compete in the 2012 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee extended invitations to Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo and 800-meter runner Sarah Attar to compete.
Saudi Arabia has never allowed women to compete in the past, but after intense pressure, they are allowing these two women to compete. Earlier, it was believed an equestrian athlete would compete, but the IOC's invitations will allow Shahrkhani and Attar to enter the Games.
"A big inspiration for participating in the Olympic Games is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going," the 17-year-old Attar said in an IOC statement from her U.S. training base in San Diego. "It's such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport."
It seems bizarre to even have this conversation in 2012, but these are also the first Games where women will compete in every sport. Though women have boxed at amateur and professional levels for years, this is the first time they're competing for Olympic medals.
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In fact, it was just 1984 when women were allowed to run the marathon for the first time because of concerns of what long-distance running would do to women's fertility. Joan Benoit, the first female Olympic marathon champion, is the mother of two.
Though they have been dragged kicking and screaming into a world where women can compete at the highest levels, let's be happy Saudi Arabia made it here. Best of luck to Sharhkhani and Attar, because just getting to London requires levels of courage and fortitude beyond comprehension. Way to show your country what women can do.
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