Saudi Arabia has found two female athletes to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.
Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani will take part in the over-78kg judo competition, while Sarah Attar will run the 800 meters, theInternational Olympic Committee (IOC) announced today.
They will be the first women ever to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics.
Their participation, alongside first-time women’s teams from Qatar and Brunei, means that every country present will have at least one female entrant, according to IOC President Jacques Rogge.
He described the news as “an encouraging evolution” towards greater gender balance at the event.
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There had been some doubt over whether Saudi Arabia would be able to keep its promise to send a female team this year.
With a ban on female Olympians lifted only last month, and strict restrictions on women and girls’ sporting activities still in place, few if any Saudi women are in a position to meet international standards. Showjumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas, a bronze medallist at the 2010 Youth Olympics, was considered the country’s best hope, but failed to qualify.
It’s possible that the IOC granted Shahrkhani and Attar wild-card status, meaning that they will be allowed to compete despite not reaching the usual requirements.
According to the BBC, Saudi officials have made certain provisos about what the athletes may wear when they compete, insisting that they “preserve their dignity.”
In a publicity shot, Attar is shown running in leggings, a loose-fitting sweatshirt and a headscarf – which one might expect to put her at a disadvantage against her Lycra-clad rivals.
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