Saudi women in the Olympics
MURRAY, Ky. — There are a lot of firsts in any Olympic games but this year, there are a few that don't come with gold medals but should come with gold stars.
For instance, this year, the United States has more female competitors than male. In fact, for the first time, every country is represented by women. One of those countries is Saudi Arabia, which has two females competing this year, in judo and the 800-meter run.
The shaky 16-year-old Wojdan Shahrkhani lost in just 82 seconds in her first Olympic judo bout, on Friday, Aug. 3. But in this case, a defeat means victory. She and Sarah Attar, a 19-year-old who will run the 800 meter, are the first two Saudi Arabian women ever to compete in the Olympics.
The breakthrough for these two women comes after what the International Olympic Committee officals are calling months of negotiations with Saudi Arabia. Neither Wojdan nor Sarah actually qualified for competition at the Olympics but were accepted under the "universality" clause because their participation was deemed important for reasons of equality.
"I think it's a good move and it can be good step toward more civic liberties and rights for both genders, not only for women," says Saudi Arabia native Yazeed Alsanad.
Attar competes Wednesday, Aug. 9 in the 800-meter run. In accordance with her culture, she will be covering up her arms, legs and hair.