Kariman Abuljadayel is a 22 year-old Sprinter from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Because winning isn’t everything, her mere participation in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic is enough to be considered groundbreaking. Abuljadayel finished seventh in her heat at 14.61 seconds.
In Saudi Arabia, women weren’t allowed to participate and compete in the Olympics up until 2012 when the International Olympic Committee made it a requirement for every delegation to send at least a woman or be banned. This measure was taken to do away with gender discriminations in sports many countries face. As a result, Kariman Abuljadayel was preceded by Wojdan Shaherkani, a Judo athlete and Sarah Attar, an 800-meter runner. Shaherkani and Attar participated in the 2012 London Olympics. They didn’t win any medals but their participation was gold for many people. It meant change.
With all that being said, Dalma Rushdi Malhas (originally from the KSA, born in the USA) competed in the 2010 Youth Olympics of Singapore as an equestrian. She won Bronze for the KSA which she represented. It’s not clear if Malhas had to force the KSA’s hands. However, she is very vocal about gender equality in all sports. According to The Guardian, when Malhas won a medal she said, “I hope this medal will open the door for many Saudi Arabian women in my country and in the Arab world too. They just need to work hard – if I did it, they could do it too.” Malhas was disqualified in murky circumstances at the 2012 London Olympics. Many sources say her horse had been out for several weeks leading to the Olympics and the KSA still claimed she would be participating.
Present day KSA’s team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics is composed of 11 athletes. Four of which are women; Sarah Attar we already know, Joud Famy in Judo, Lubna Alomair in Fencing, and of course Kariman Abuljadayel; our heroine.
History is being made and Arab women are ‘coming to the out’ now. Forgive my Boov’s references. The women covered their whole body to compete and this should be enough. Let’s consider their outfits as manual labor work clothes and let them be.
Afghanistan is another country who had a sprinter running in a hijab. Her name is Kamia Yousufi. She finished last in her heat at 14.02 seconds. Yousufi also deserves special mention by bearing the brunt. Wishing all these brave women better luck next time. They are still an inspiration for us feminists and especially for Saudi women.