Ibtihaj Muhammad: 5 Things to Know About the First U.S. Olympic Athlete to Compete in a Hijab
For starters, Ibtihaj Muhammad founded her own online clothing company in Los Angeles in 2014.
The Rio Olympics begin Friday evening and one competitor getting a lot of attention is U.S. Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is the first American athlete to compete at the Olympic games in 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," said Muhammad in her Team USA fencing bio. "I want to set an example that anything is possible with perseverance."
Here, five things you should know about the rising trailblazer.
She's making history (or herstory?).
The Maplewood, NJ-born athlete is the first Muslim woman to represent Team USA in a hijab. Though Muhammad has said she joined fencing because it was "a sport where I could be full covered and I didn't have to look different," she's ready to make her voice heard. "When I think of my predecessors and the people who spoke out against bigotry and hate, I feel like I owe it not just to myself but to my community to try to fight it," she told The Washington Post.
Her stats are impressive (obviously).
Muhammad started fencing at age 13 and committed fully to the sport while attending Duke University, where she became a Junior Olympic Champion in 2005 and earned three All-America honors. She currently ranks No. 2 on USA Fencing's national team and No. 8 in the world. In 2016, Muhammad was honored as one of Time's 100 Most Influential People.
She's also a fashion designer.
Apparently fashion and fencing is a thing. Case in point: Fellow fencer Miles Chamley-Warson is a runway model and Muhammad is a fashion designer. The 30-year-old competitor founded e-comm site Louella, offering what the label describes as a "fresh and vibrant look to the modest fashion industry." The brand, made in L.A., carries long-sleeve flowy dresses (up to $120 each), wide-legged jumpsuits (up to $85 each) and minimalist tunics (from $40 to $50).
She's given fencing lessons to the First Lady.
At the 100-day countdown to the Rio Olympics kickoff in New York's Times Square in April, Muhammad had the opportunity to give Michelle Obama a quick fencing lesson before FLOTUS practiced the moves with a young girl using foam foils. It was then that the two women shared a warm embrace, in the midst of an election cycle that has witnessed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump making anti-Muslim remarks.
She's an Ellen fan.
While visiting Ellen, she told the daytime host, "I'm so obsessed with you. I'm so excited to be here. You're such a role model." She even joked that she's constantly training and traveling, but, "I always find time for you."