Ibtihaj Muhammad

Getty Images

Ibtihaj Muhammad, content with fencing career, steps away from competition

Leave a comment

NEW YORK — Ibtihaj Muhammad‘s clairvoyant moment came last August, when the Olympic sabre fencer made the hajj pilgrimage for her first visit to Mecca.

“When you take your reprieve from sport, or from any profession, and you take time for yourself, having an opportunity to visit the holiest place for Muslims, being Mecca, Saudi Arabia, it was really transformational for me,” Muhammad said Monday. “It was one of those things people can tell you about, but you really have to experience for yourself.”

It became fairly clear to Muhammad, who in Rio became the first Muslim-American woman to compete at the Olympics with a hijab (and earned a team bronze medal), that she would not compete again.

“I have unofficially hung up my sabre,” she said. “I feel really content with my career and where I am right now in my life. You know, fencing is not a big part of it anymore, but it’s always been my intention to transcend sport in a way that reaches people not just in the fencing world but outside of it. I think I’ve been able to best do that, not only representing my sport but representing myself.”

Muhammad became a trailblazing face of the Rio Games after she qualified six months before the Opening Ceremony, voicing advocacy for equality and showing minorities and Muslim youth that anything is possible.

She would be named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and was told by President Barack Obama, who invited Muhammad as one of 10 special guests to a speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, to “bring home the gold.”

Muhammad fenced on “Ellen” and with First Lady Michelle Obama. She finished second to Michael Phelps in voting to be the U.S. flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony.

Other Olympic champions helped Muhammad decide to step away from the strip. She last competed at the 2017 World Championships.

“It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” said Muhammad, who reached the round of 16 in the individual sabre in Rio and was ranked seventh in the world that year. “I really was leaning on my friends who are in professional sport. Lindsey Vonn was giving me advice. I talked to Abby Wambach, Julie Foudy.

“What really was consistent throughout everyone that I talked to who is also a professional athlete is you’ll know when it’s time. I think that Julie and Abby had similar stories to mine, that you feel a disconnect from the sport. I don’t watch fencing anymore. I’m not really part of it in any capacity. But I think that my story is more than fencing.”

Muhammad cited two of the coolest post-Olympic experiences — her own Barbie coming out in 2017 and publishing her memoir, “Proud,” in 2018. In the book, Muhammad detailed unfriendly interactions with future Olympic teammates when she was rising in U.S. fencing.

“I have always believed that it’s important to be authentic and to tell your truth, no matter how difficult it is,” she said. “Having to unpack everything and relive these moments in telling my story, it was really difficult. And I never struggled with whether or not to tell it. It was really more so using it as this therapeutic moment to get everything off my chest that I feel is important to say.”

Muhammad continues to be visible. A Nike ad showing her screaming in her fencing uniform was put up in Times Square this spring.

“Be the hero you didn’t have,” it reads.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. fencing wraps up its best world champs ever

Ibtihaj Muhammad gets her own Barbie doll

Barbie
Leave a comment

U.S. fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim-American woman to compete at the Olympics with a hijab, now has her own Barbie doll.

The doll, available for purchase next year, was unveiled Monday at the Glamour Women of the Year Summit.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t have many options of dolls that looked like me,” Muhammad said, according to Glamour. “But today, we’re changing that.”

Muhammad’s Barbie is the first in the doll’s 58-year history with a hijab.

“This is such a big moment for little girls everywhere,” she said, according to Glamour, adding that she used to sew tiny hijabs onto her dolls growing up.

Muhammad, 31, lost her opening bout at the world championships in July, 11 months after taking bronze in the team event in Rio. Muhammad lost in the round of 16 in the individual event in Rio.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S.’ best fencer announces pregnancy

Images via Mattel:

Ibtihaj Muhammad and U.S. fencers eliminated at Worlds

Getty Images
1 Comment

Ibtihaj Muhammad lost to Germany’s Ann-Sophie Kindler, 15-12, in her opening bout of the women’s individual sabre, Round of 64, at the 2017 World Fencing Championships in Leipzig, Germany. Muhammad finished the event ranked 36th. Her best finish at Worlds in individual sabre came in 2015 when she finished 13th.

Famously becoming the first U.S. athlete to compete at an Olympic Games while wearing a hijab, Muhammad stood on the fencing team sabre event podium at the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning bronze with fellow fencers Monica Aksamit, Dagmara Wozniak and Mariel Zagunis.

Also appearing in the women’s individual sabre Round of 64 for the U.S. at Worlds, Monica Aksamit and Dagmara Wozniak won their opening bouts. Wozniak, currently the highest ranking U.S. fencer in sabre at 18th in the world, defeated China’s Jia Xiaoye and Aksamit beat Hong Kong’s Chan Yin Fei – both contests ending with a score of 15-9.

The Americans were unable to make it two-in-a-row after advancing to the Round of 32, as both fell to their opponents. Wozniak was beaten in a close battle, 14-15, by Russia’s Sofia Pozdniakova while Aksamit was knocked out by Japan’s Norika Tamura, 11-15.

Mariel Zagunis, one of only two U.S. fencers to win Olympic gold – her first coming in 2004 – was not on the pistes in Leipzig. This year is the first time Zagunis has been absent for a world championships since 1999. Back in May of 2017, Zagunis announced she was pregnant, expecting the birth of her first child in October. Zagunis is planning her return to competition and for a run at what would be her fifth Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Muhammad, Aksamit and Wozniak will be back in action at Worlds on July 25 when they are joined by Anne-Elizabeth Stone to compete in the women’s team sabre event.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Mariel Zagunis announces pregnancy