Ibtihaj Muhammad helped Team USA win the bronze medal in the women’s saber team competition at Rio 2016, but it was her presence as a part of the U.S. delegation that resonated. Muhammad was the first American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the U.S. in the Olympics and the first Muslim-American woman to win an Olympic medal.
“I realize that this moment is bigger than me,” she said. “Anyone who has paid attention to the news at all would realize the importance of having a Muslim woman on Team USA. It’s not just any team, it’s the United States of America. It’s just been a really remarkable experience for me.”
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Muhammad took up the fencing at age 13, settling on the sport because it provided the rare combination of allowing her to compete in athletics while also being able to adhere to the tenets of her religion to cover her body.
She began training with the Peter Westbrook Foundation, founded by the six-time U.S. Olympian to mentor inner-city kids through the sport of fencing. Muhammad became a three-time All-American at Duke University and subsequently proved herself as one of the best in the world.
“I am so proud of the development and growth of Ibtihaj Muhammad,” said founder Peter Westbrook. “Her achievements on the fencing strip are only surpassed by her ongoing effort to break barriers in her sport.”