Wojdan Shaherkhani, the Saudi judo player who is the first woman ever to compete for the conservative kingdom, lost her Round of 32 bout Friday. She lost by a throw to Melissa Mojica from Puerto Rico in 1:22.
"I am happy to be at the Olympics," she whispered in Arabic after the bout, her father holding both her arms. "Unfortunately, we did not win a medal, but in the future we will and I will be a star for women's participation."
There were worries Shaherkhani wouldn't make it to the mat because the judo federation ruled she could not wear the hijab, the traditional Muslim hair covering. The Saudi federation stipulated they would only allow women to compete if they wore the hijab, so there were worries Shaherkhani would withdraw. Fortunately, the two sides came to an agreement, and Shaherkhani wore the hijab onto the mat.
[ Photos: Saudi judoka Wojdan Shaherkhani ]
Most judo Olympians are black belts with years of international experience. Shaherkhani is a blue belt who has practiced the sport for two years, so the loss was not surprising. The crowd stood and cheered for her anyway, appreciative of what she had done.
The result doesn't matter. She competed on behalf of a country that doesn't allow women to drive cars or be out unattended. Whether her hand was raised or not, Shaherkhani scored a huge win for women.
[ Photos: Inspirational Olympic moments ]
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