Shaherkhani almost didn’t compete, because judo’s governing body didn’t want her to wear a hijab. They found a compromise in time.
She became the first Saudi woman ever to compete in an Olympic event. Runner Sarah Attar will compete in the 800 meters for Saudi Arabia next week.
Shaherkhani is just 16, and not yet a black belt. Some people worried she wasn’t ready to compete in the Olympics.
Her opponent, Melissa Mojica, 28, is more experienced. She’s ranked 13th in the world.
Early in the match, Mojica was able to drop Shaherkhani, scoring the judo equivalent of a knockout.
The whole thing was over in 82 seconds.
As other fighters had predicted, Shaherkhani’s head covering didn’t seem to cause problems.
Afterwards, Mojica said of her opponent, “I admire her for coming from that country and having the courage to compete. I didn’t feel pity for [her]. I felt a lot of respect.”
In a statement after the match, Shaherkhani said, “Hopefully this will be the start of bigger participation for other sports also. Hopefully this is the begin [sic] of a new era.”
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