Ibtihaj Muhammad to be first American to compete in Olympics in hijab; Mariel Zagunis qualifies, too

Mariel Zagunis
Reuters
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Ibtihaj Muhammad will become the first American to compete in a hijab at the Olympics after clinching her spot on the U.S. fencing team for Rio, according to U.S. Fencing and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Muhammad, along with Mariel Zagunis, the most decorated U.S. fencer ever, became the first fencers to clinch berths on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team via national team points standings. They are both sabre fencers.

Muhammad, 30, is ranked No. 7 in the world and reached the 2015 World Championships round of 16, falling to Russian Sofiya Velikaya, who went on to win the title.

In 2012, she tore a ligament in her hand and missed making the London Games, according to the USOC.

Zagunis, also 30, won the individual sabre event at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and is ranked No. 2 in the world behind Velikaya. She is set to become the first U.S. female fencer to compete in her fourth Olympics since Harriet King in 1972, according to sports-reference.com.

At the 2012 Olympics, Zagunis was the U.S. Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer and tearfully lost in the sabre semifinals.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Rio Olympics

Muhammad and Zagunis have the opportunity to win two medals in Rio, as the women’s team sabre event returns to the Olympic program after being cycled out for 2012 (fencing is allowed 10 Olympic events, even though there are traditionally 12 in the international program, meaning a men’s and women’s team event is cut each Olympics).

A third U.S. sabre fencer will later qualify for the Olympic team, plus a fourth fencer that can be used as a replacement athlete in the Olympic team event.

London Olympian Dagmara Wozniak is currently third in the national team standings, in position to claim the third spot.

The full U.S. Olympic fencing team will be named April 11.

MORE FENCING: Zagunis on being flag bearer, top rival, future Olympics