Capturing bronze at the Athens World Cup on Saturday, 30-year-old saber fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which will make her the first ever American Olympian to compete wearing a hijab. “I want to compete in the Olympics for the United States to prove that nothing should hinder anyone from reaching their goals — not race, religion, or gender,” she says in her biography on the U.S. Fencing website. “I want to set an example that anything is possible with perseverance.” Muhammad might have made her historic appearance at the 2012 Olympics in London, but a hand injury kept her out of the Games. She is currently the number-two ranked female fencer in the U.S., winning two bronze medals this season. She landed a silver medal at the world cup in 2013 and has been part of seven medal-winning world cup teams. Feeling a lack of minority representation in fencing, she decided to pursue the sport full-time after graduating from Duke University: “I felt that it was something the squad needed. There were barriers that needed to be broken in women’s saber,” she said in a USOC press release. Muhammad has also been an outspoken voice for muslim rights on social media, where she challenged Republican candidate Donald Trump on his anti-muslim rhetoric, tweeting in December: “If you #banMuslims, how will #TeamUSA‘s Muslim athletes get to Olympic qualifiers?”
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