Winning a gold medal at the Olympics is one way to secure a place in history, but one athlete already did just that — without receiving a medal.
According to The Huffington Post, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad earned a bronze in the Women’s Sabre World Cup on Saturday, Jan. 30, thus giving her enough qualifying points represent the United States fencing team at the summer games in Rio de Janeiro.
But Muhammad’s stellar performance isn’t the only thing making headlines, and it’s not what’s written her into history already. Muhammad’s Saturday win not only secured her position on the U.S. Olympic team, but also her status as the first Muslim American to compete in the games wearing a hijab.
Although she has already made history ahead of the Olympics’ Aug. 5 start, Muhammad said she long dreamed of making history with her U.S. fencing teammates. “I have always believed that with hard work, dedication, and perseverance, I could one day walk with my U.S. teammates into Olympic history.”
The New Jersey native has been fencing since she was 13 years old, something she took up at the suggestion of her mother and eventually led her to continuing the sport throughout her time at Duke University.
“After I graduated from college, I saw there was a lack of minorities in the sport. I recognized that I had a skill set, so I started to pursue fencing full time. I felt that it was something the squad needed. There were barriers that needed to be broken in women’s saber” Muhammad said in an interview with TeamUSA.org.
While Muhammad knows that she isn’t what people would consider the ‘typical’ Olympic athlete, she is just fine with standing out from the crowd. “When most people picture an Olympic fencer, they probably do not imagine a person like me. Fortunately, I am not most people,” she explained.
But she also hopes that her unique presence on the U.S. Olympic team will inspire others to achieve their dreams.
“I want to compete in the Olympics for the United States to prove that nothing should hinder anyone from reaching their goals — not race, religion or gender. I want to set an example that anything is possible with perseverance.”