RIO DE JANEIRO – Ibtihaj Muhammad won her first Olympic medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday, August 13, making history as the first American Muslim to compete in hijab in Olympic games.
“I’m hoping that through my experiences here at the Olympic games – winning a medal – that I combat those stereotypes about Muslims and African Americans, and even women,” she said after ending her Olympics in flying color.
“We’re like any other athletes, we have worked really hard for this, and I can’t think of a more deserving group of girls to go home with a medal.”
For many, Muhammad’s medal was more significant than any other medal won by American athletes in Rio.
Wearing a black hijab, the Muslim woman from Maplewood, New Jersey, stood on a medal stand next to two other two team-mates, one of them was born in Poland and the other in New York and graduated from Penn State University.
The medal, the first for US in fencing since 2008, has another great significance, coming in the middle ofanti-Muslim and bigotry rhetoric intensified by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump..
“To win with this team really means a lot,” Muhammad said, her voice cracking.
“Oh, I believe so we are in a really peculiar time in our country, where people are comfortable saying things about particular groups, and they encourage fear, and they encourage violence, and I want to challenge those ideas,” she said.
“I feel I have to use my platform as an athlete to speak up, and hopefully provide change in this country.”
During her journey to the Olympic medal, Muhammad was outspoken figure who said people need to see that Muslim women can be athletic, that African American women do sports like fencing, and that women should not be trapped to the home.
She also said that an Olympic medal would give hope to young girls just like herself once, that they can aspire to an Olympics too and watch their country’s flags rise while wearing medals around their necks.
Someone asked if she thought more athletes should speak out and she nodded.
“I don’t see why not,” she said.
“Why not use your platform to change our condition to help make our world a better place?”