LOS ANGELES—After failing to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, Ibtihaj Muhammad was singularly focused on qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. Now she has a new date circled on her calendar: November 8.
“I am really looking forward to the [presidential] election,” Muhammad said. “We need a reprieve from all of this trauma.”
This summer Muhammad became the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, the traditional headscarf worn by Muslim women. The distinction earned significant media attention for Muhammad, who won a fencing team sabre bronze medal in Rio. She appeared on “The Ellen Show,” and was named one of the 100 most influential people for 2016 by TIME Magazine.
She is often asked about Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee who has proposed barring all Muslims from entering the United States. Muhammad famously responded “Who?” when reporters peppered her with questions about Trump during the Olympics.
Now that the Rio Games are over, Muhammad is more willing to express her political opinions.
“This is a moment in time where we can reject hate and take a stand as Americans to say this candidate doesn’t represent us,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad was vague when asked if she planned on endorsing a specific presidential candidate, instead encouraging everyone to remember to vote. When pressed, Muhammad revealed that she plans on voting for Hillary Clinton.
“To me, it is very clear which presidential candidate feels more in line with supporting minority communities in this country,” Muhammad said.
Clinton’s campaign sent a congratulatory tweet to Muhammad during the Olympics.
“Having Hillary Clinton, hopefully our next president, acknowledge Muslim women on the United States Olympic team is a wonderful moment not just for me, but for all of us,” Muhammad said. “It shows that we are a country of inclusion, acceptance and diversity.”
Muhammad has maintained a whirlwind travel schedule since the Rio Games, making speaking appearances and promoting her clothing line, Louella, which she describes as “modest, fashion-forward clothing.”
She recently returned to training in preparation for the Grand Prix season, which begins this December in Cancun, and eventually the 2017 World Championships. But she has not committed to attempting to compete at the 2020 Olympics, or even future world championships.
“I’m a firm believer in taking things day by day,” Muhammad said. “I don’t even know my plans for tomorrow.”
Muhammad, who studied international relations at Duke University, has considered eventually running for elected office. She served on the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls Through Sport Initiative, received a shout-out in a February speech from President Barack Obama, and even taught First Lady Michelle Obama how to fence.
“If I can use politics as an avenue to encourage and inspire our youth, why not?” Muhammad said.
Muhammad spoke on a panel at the LA84 Foundation Summit last week. Emcee Julie Foudy, a three-time U.S. Olympic soccer medalist, made Muhammad promise that she would consider running for president one day.
“I can’t wait for Donald Trump to be around to see that,” Foudy said.Follow @srubinroit