I confess a rather limited interest in the London 2012 Olympics but I had been looking forward to seeing Wojdan Shaherkani compete.
I am glad she came to London 2012 but there is a wider significant, as the WSJ explains:
“But the rapid defeat didn’t detract from the bout’s significance: Shaherkani became the first woman to compete for Saudi Arabia in the Olympics—a breakthrough moment in the ultraconservative kingdom.
After the match, speaking through a Saudi judo official who translated her brief remarks to a hoard of dozens of reporters, she said she was “excited, very proud” of her ground-breaking appearance. Speaking on the sidelines after the fight, her coach, Mohamed Elsayed Sabeia, said in an interview that it was a “momentous” occasion.
She showed up wearing a white judo robe and black cloth wrapped tightly around her head. Her opponent was Melissa Mojica, one of the world’s top judoka in the heavyweight category.
Shaherkani had never participated in an international judo bout. She was invited to the Olympics in a symbolic attempt to strike a blow for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. The country prohibits women from playing sports in front of mixed audiences of men and women, and Saudi schools generally don’t provide girls with physical education.
Before the fight, some other judo fighters worried that Shaherkani wasn’t qualified to compete and suggested it could be dangerous for her to square off against Olympic athletes in the violent sport.
Those concerns faded quickly when the bout got under way. Shaherkani used a defensive strategy, trying to deflect Mojica’s advances. She succeeded a few times before Mojica grabbed hold of her and swung her to the ground. That ended the match. “