LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Sultan Mubarak Al-Dawoodi of the Saudi Arabia Olympic athletics team during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Saudi Arabia's Wojdan Shaherkani became the first woman ever to participate in an Olympic event representing her nation, quickly losing a judo match.
After the IOC prodded Saudi Arabia's Olympic Committee to end its policy of male-only participation, a female athlete has finally competed for the nation: Wojdan Shaherkani took to the judo mat Friday in the 78kg+ weight division.
Although Shaherkani's match lasted only 1:12 -- she lost to Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica by ippon -- that's all the time she needed to make history. She wore a head covering -- "enough of a compromise to adhere to regulations of both the Islamic community and judo’s governing bodies," NBC says. This was the result of some debate -- at first she wanted to compete without one, then said she would withdraw if not allowed to, but eventually competed in some form of head covering.
Shaherkani represented a country that has historically opposed higher female integration into society. The 16-year-old was given restrictions on how to behave at the Olympics by her nation's committee -- she must dress modestly and cannot mix with men -- but her participation is still a step forward. The kingdom was one of three nations the IOC targeted in hopes of encouraging female participation. (The others, Qatar and Brunei, also sent female delegations.)
Shaherkani is one of two female Saudi participants in the games: the other, Sarah Attar, who runs at Pepperdine University, will take place in the 800m in track and field. They had planned on sending Dalma Rushdi Malhas in equestrian, but her horse suffered an injury.
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