Behind an American flag-themed mask, Ibtihaj Muhammad is changing the face of U.S. fencing. And of Team USA as a whole.
Muhammad, a 30-year-old sabre fencer, will compete in her first Olympics in Rio. And she will do so wearing a hijab, which no American has donned in Olympic competition.
Still, Muhammad says she receives backlash.
“Just last week, I was walking with my teammate, and a man told me that I look suspicious,” Muhammad said in a TODAY interview published Friday. “He started asking me if I was going to blow something up.”
Muhammad has received plenty of press since qualifying for the Games in February, but the focus must be squarely on the Games.
She is ranked No. 8 in the world in her discipline.
With two other U.S. women ranked in the world top 24, including two-time Olympic champion Mariel Zagunis, her best shot at a medal is in the team event. Muhammad, Zagunis and two others combined to earn bronze at the 2015 World Championships and gold in 2014.Follow @nzaccardi