*African American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad on Monday officially became the first American Muslim woman to compete in the Olympics while wearing a hijab.
The eighth-ranked saber fencer defeated 33rd-ranked Olena Kravatska of Ukraine, 15-13, in the round of 32, but went on to lose in the round of 16. Muhammad had taken an early lead in the match against ninth-ranked Cecilia Berder of France but surrendered a string of touches mid-bout and ended up losing, 15-12.
However, her Olympics run is not over. She will take part in the team competition later in the Games.
Muhammad’s presence in Rio comes during a time when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has declared his intention to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., should he take over the White House.
“I think his words are very dangerous,” Muhammad told CNN last week. “When these types of comments are made, no one thinks about how they really affect people. I’m African-American. I don’t have another home to go to. My family was born here. I was born here. I’ve grown up in Jersey. All my family’s from Jersey. It’s like, well, where do we go?”
Muhammad’s comments also come on the heels of Trump’s heavily criticized comments about the Kahn family, whose son was killed while protecting his troops from a car bomb in Iraq in 2004. Muhammad has kept quiet about politics since arriving in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics, offering only a “Who?” when reporters at a press conference mentioned Trump.
“I’m hopeful that, in my efforts to represent our country well as an athlete ― that they change the rhetoric around how people think and perceive the Muslim community,” she told CNN.
Muhammad, 30, is a Duke graduate and one of Time magazine’s Most Influential People of 2016. She now lives and trains in New York, knowing that her presence in Rio is significant whether she wins a medal or not.
“I am excited to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions people have about Muslim women,” she told the BBC. “I want to show people that we can not only be on any Olympic team, but on the U.S. Olympic team which is the strongest of the world’s teams.”
Below, Muhammad explains fencing: