Fencer Becomes First American Olympian to Compete in Hijab

Ibtihaj Muhammad also runs a clothing label for Muslim women.

ByMICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN
August 8, 2016, 1:39 PM

— -- Saber fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history today by becoming the first Muslim-American woman to wear a hijab while competing in the Olympics.

Muhammad, a 30-year-old resident of Maplewood, New Jersey, came from behind today to best Ukrainian fencer Olena Kravatska, 15-13, before losing later to Cécilia Berder of France, 15-12, in the round of 16.

She spoke to ABC News prior to competing, and called her history-making entry into the games an exciting moment "not just for myself and my family but for our country."

She described the prejudice that Muslim women face in the U.S. when wearing a hijab, and said that she hoped to "change the conservation" regarding American Muslims by complicating preconceived notions.

Muhammad said that she joined the fencing team because it was a popular sport in her community in New Jersey, and because the sport required her to be covered -- something that suited her as a Muslim woman.

She said that the speed of saber fencing also appealed to her.

"I like to think on my feet," she said of the sport.

Muhammad, who also runs Louella, a clothing label tailored specifically for Muslim women, said that she hoped her story could inspire other American Muslims at home watching her compete.

"I remember being told I didn't belong," she recalled, adding that she hoped others would avoid that prejudice.

ABC News' Matt Gutman contributed to this report.

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