RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - Maplewood's hometown hero Ibtihaj Muhammad competed in the Rio Olympics today, Aug. 8, making history as the first U.S. athlete to compete in a hijab.
Muhammad (No. 8) defeated Olena Kravatska (No. 25) of the Ukraine, with a final score of 15-13 in the Round of 32, advancing to the Round of 16. The winner of the bout is the first fencer to reach 15 points.
Muhammad faced Cecilia Berder (No. 9) of France in the Round of 16. Despite a strong start and cheers of "USA, USA" heard from the audience in the televised event, Muhammad was defeated by Berder, with a final score of 15-12, and out of medal contention in the event.
After her loss to Berder, Muhammad said, "I think you just become frustrated with yourself. I always say that in a sport like fencing, you're your biggest opponent. If you can control yourself and your nerves and your emotions and execute your actions in the way that you want to execute, you'll always be successful and I wasn't able to do that today," according to a press release from USA Fencing.
Muhammad also stated, "this has been a beautiful experience for me," adding "I realize that this moment is bigger than me. No matter what happens in my life, I try to accept it for what it is. Whether it's winning or losing. I realize that, with hard work, sometimes you may fall short. I've worked so hard for this moment and, at the end of the day, this moment of me in sport and representing my country and the Muslim community is bigger than myself. I always end every single match with the same sentiment and that's that I'm thankful to God for the experience and allowing me to even be present in this moment."
"Things that are meant for me will never miss me and failing to win that last match, it wasn't in my cards," Muhammad said, according to the USA Fencing release.
Muhammad continued, "I feel like it's a blessing to represent so many people who don't have voices, who don't speak out. It's just been a really remarkable experience for me."
While Muhammad will not advance further in the Women's Individual Saber, Muhammad is one of three members of the U.S. Women's Saber Team, which is scheduled to compete on Sat., Aug. 13, in the team event.
The New Jersey Fencing Alliance (NJFA) and the Township of Maplewood have organized a viewing party on Sat., Aug. 13, when Muhammad will be competing in the Team Saber event. The NJFA will also be live streaming fencing events all week. For more details, click here.