Muhammad first U.S. athlete to wear hijab at Olympics
Published 6:02 am Tuesday, August 9, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO — The third day of Olympic competition featured a couple of notable firsts: Rafaela Silva captured host Brazil’s initial gold medal of the Rio Games and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the only American ever to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab.
Silva, who grew up on one of Rio’s hillside shanty towns, won judo’s 57-kilogram division, then, overwhelmed with emotion, performed the Brazilian version of the Green Bay Packers’ “Lambeau Leap” to celebrate with her compatriots Monday.
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It was, at the least, a momentary reprieve for the host country bracing for what once seemed unthinkable: an early exit by its men’s soccer team from the Olympic tournament. Brazil finds itself needing a victory against Denmark to advance and avoid another huge embarrassment two years after a demoralizing 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals of the World Cup.
Brazilian fans aren’t just booing their men’s soccer team. After months of dire predictions from abroad about the mosquito-borne Zika virus, some locals are doing some stinging of their own: They’re jeering U.S. athletes and taunting them over the fears that kept some competitors away from South America’s first Olympics.
In the women’s sabre tournament, Muhammad, sporting a plain black Muslim head scarf under a red, white and blue mask, was a winner in her opening bout before bowing out. A New Jersey native who started fencing in part because the uniform allowed her to adhere to the tenets of her faith, Muhammad also competes in the team event later this week.
Australia won the first gold medal for rugby sevens at the Olympics, beating archrival New Zealand 24-17 in the women’s final.