It was short and it was sweet. Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani became the first Saudi women to compete in the Olympics today when she stepped into the Judo ring in London.
Shaherkani, 16-years-old, competed in the 78-kilogram class of judo. Her fight against Melissa Mjoica of Puerto Rico only lasted 78-seconds but the impact of her appearance will last for much longer.
Wajeha al-Huwaidir, a Saudi activist, told the Associated Press:
“It is beautiful that she played and in front of people and proved her presence and stated that Saudi women are not all servants at home.”
Shaherkani’s participation in the Judo event at the Olympics outraged some of the country’s conservative clerics, but the 16-year-old had plenty of support inside the stadium. Rafid Fatani, a Saudi who waved his nation’s flag proudly during the event, said:
“They have been brought up to believe women are subordinates, are second class citizens and should not have the same opportunity as men… Today highlighted how much of a winner she is. In the face of not having any facilities, in the face of swimming upstream like a salmon she still had the ability to make it here.”
The Houston Chronicle reports that Shaherkani was the first of two Saudi women who will be competing at the 2012 London Olympics. Sarah Attar will be running the 800-meter race.
“Hopefully this will be the start of bigger participation for other sports also… Hopefully this is the beginning of a new era.”
Do you think more Saudi women will compete at the 2016 Olympics?