Peter Wiseman’s Olympic Athlete Profiles: Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibti might hide behind a mask, but she is one of the bravest athletes you will ever meet. A female, African-American, Muslim, she will be the first member of team USA to wear a hijab in competition.

She originally chose sabre fencing because the helmet and full body gear give her a way to respect her beliefs without sticking out from the other athletes.

This doesn’t mean she is ashamed in the least bit, however, as Ibtihaj is known for advocating for the Muslim religion and promoting equality for athletes.

The 31 year old fencer is ranked 8th by the International Fencing Federation, and has already been named as one of Time’s 100 most influential people.

“I just wanted to break that stereotype and challenge people’s idea of what a fencer looks like”

Growing up in a diverse neighborhood in, Maplewood, New Jersey, Ibtihaj was able to be comfortable in her own skin. As her success in the sport allowed her to branch out, she realized that not every female athlete had that same luxury. That was one of the driving forces that kept her in the sport for this length of time. 

“When I looked at this sport, specifically the United States fencing team, it wasn’t very diverse. And I just wanted to break that stereotype and challenge people’s idea of what a fencer looks like. When I was told there had never been a Muslim woman who wears the hijab on the United States Olympic team, that was just another challenge, another goal I set for myself.”

Ibtihaj is no stranger to challenges as she makes a practice of training through Ramadan while fasting from sun up to sun down.

It’s worth it though for the young lady who is never more content then on the fencing strip where everything else fades away momentarily and she focuses only on her opponent.

It’s that focus that has her striving for gold, but either way she finds herself is in a great position, knowing that win or lose, she is making a difference in the world around her.

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