All across the world, women are breaking barriers in sports, nabbing medals and setting new records in every field. Part of this wave of inspirational female athletes are hijabi figures who are making remarkable impact in the field of sports worldwide. In recent years, hijabi athletes have caught the attention of the world, partly because of changes in the field allowing them more access than ever. For instance, in 2012, the International Volleyball Federation changed its rules, allowing less revealing uniforms at the London Olympics after various countries lobbied for it. And in 2014, FIFA officially allowed soccer players to wear turbans and hijabs.
Here are five remarkable hijabi athletes to know:
1. Ibtihaj Muhammad
A saber fencer from New Jersey, USA, Muhammad became the first American woman to compete in hijab at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Although she only made it into the second round of the individual tournament, she became the first ever American Muslim to earn a medal, as part of the USA fence team, which took home the bronze medal. This November, she nabbed another first, with the first-ever hijab-wearing Barbie designed in her image.
2. Zahra Lari
Lari is a 22-year-old figure skater from the United Arabic Emirates. She has been skating for the past ten years and is the first athlete from the Gulf Region to compete in an international tournament. In 2017, Nike included the ice princess (which also happens to be the title of the movie that got her into skating) in an ad for their new Nike Pro Hijab. Lari has also graced the cover of Women's Health Middle East and was featured in Nike's Middle Eastern campaign "What Will They Say About You?"
3. Hedaya Wahba
Wahba started doing taekwondo at the age of six, following in her elder brother’s footsteps. Years later, this athlete made headlines across the world. The 24-year-old Egyptian champion took home the bronze medal in taekwondo's 57-kilogram weight class in the 2016 Rio Olympics. And this year, she won a silver medal in the 67-kg weight class during the 13th French Open World Taekwondo tournament.
4. Amna Al Haddad
This weightlifter, who used to work as a journalist, started out her sports journey with crossfit but eventually decided to go for a career as a weightlifter. The 27-year-old Emirati gained worldwide recognition in 2012 by becoming the first hijabi athlete to compete at CrossFit Asia. One year later, she became the first hijabi weightlifter. In 2015, she earned six gold medals and three silver medals at the International Weightlifting Federation Asian Interclub Championships in Jordan. Al Haddad is also the inspiration for one of Nike's newest products, the Nike Pro Hijab.
5. Stephanie Kurlow
This Australian Russian athlete dreams of becoming the world’s first ballerina. She recently received a scholarship to train and currently practices for tens of hours every week. Speaking to Emirates Woman, Kurlow explains that her objective as an athlete is also to inspire others to their dreams as well.
“Some girls feel more confident now to wear hijab in their everyday life, saying they aren’t so afraid to wear it in public because of my story […] They don’t need to compromise their beliefs and their values just because of the current climate in the world.”