Pioneer Saudi sportswoman Sarah al-Attar has already raced at the Olympics, but now her campaign will become a marathon as she uses the Rio Games to break down barriers in the conservative kingdom.
Attar turned heads in the head-to-toe outfit she patched together with her mother to race in the 800 metres at the 2012 London Games, where she was one of the first Saudi women Olympians. This time Attar, now 23, will take on the gruelling 42 kilometer (26 mile) marathon race in Rio, where four Saudi women will take part. The women and seven Saudi men arrived in Rio on Monday, but were kept away from prying media.
Gender divisions are so sensitive that the Saudi Olympic Committee website did not name the women who will represent the country. Along with Attar, they are judoka Wujud Fahmi, fencer Lubna al-Omair and 100m runner Cariman Abu al-Jadail. None qualified directly for their competition, but will take part with special invitations from the International Olympic Committee.
Attar has no regrets and no doubts about running in London and Rio. In a recent article for the Like The Wind runners’ magazine, she said,
I was going for the women in Saudi Arabia, for all the young girls to have someone in the Olympics representing them, giving them a picture of something they could one day strive for
Attar finished last in her 800 metres heat in London, more than half a minute behind her nearest rival. She still got a standing ovation when she crossed the line.
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The 2016 Summer Olympics or commonly known as Rio 2016, is a major internationalmulti-sport event in the tradition of the Olympic Games due to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from August 5 to August 21, 2016. Record numbers of countries are participating in a record number of sports. More than 10,500 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) are expected to participate.With 306 sets of medals, the games will feature 28 Olympic sports. With 48 men and 40 women competing for 43 different events, the Country is going to mark its biggest feat at the games.