The Torch
3:49 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

Saudi Arabia's First Female Olympian Makes History In Judo Match

It's nearly time to set The Torch to "dim" for the night, but we must note something historic that happened today: Wojdan Shaherkani competed for Saudi Arabia in the Olympics, becoming the first woman ever to do so.

Shaherkani wasn't a threat to win her match against Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica. After all, Shaherkani is only 16, and her highest level of achievement in judo is a blue belt. Their match only lasted 1 minute and 22 seconds.

But the event showed real courage and determination on Shaherkani's part. Before Friday's match, she had to overcome a kerfuffle over her wish to wear a headscarf during competition. She compromised a bit on that, wearing a tight cap.

And when she finally set foot on the competition mat, the crowd gave the native of Mecca a long and enthusiastic reception.

"I was scared a lot, because of all the crowd," she told the AP.

Her full name is Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani. And her father, Ali, is a judo referee who traveled with his daughter to London.

After the match, the AP's Paul Haven spoke to the pair, and Ali said that he "cried like a baby" as he watched his daughter compete in the Olympics.

"She was happy and smiled when she finished the fight," he said. "She hugged me and said: 'Daddy, I did this.' I was so proud."

After their short match was over, the winner, Mojica, shook Shaherkani's hand — and performed a deep bow. Shaherkani bowed, as well, and the crowd cheered loudly as the two women left the mat.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.