Professional fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad – the first US Olympian to compete in a hijab and first Muslim-American woman to medal at the Olympics – discusses her journey to the games and what it has meant to young athletes around the world.
On being a role model: “I saw very early on in my career as a US athlete that you have the power to change minds just in kind of being present. That was amplified when I qualified for the Olympic team… Just existing as myself as an athlete who wears hijab, I’m changing the way people see my community. That’s something that I’ll never take for granted. I feel very blessed to be put in this position. And I feel like it’s a badge of honor.”
On overcoming discrimination: “I think that there’s so much pushing back in our lives that we start to in some ways absorb that energy and we wait for permission from other people to be great. I’m so tired of that idea. I’m one of those people who just pulls a seat up at the table. I don’t wait for a seat… I think that if you’re waiting for other people to invite you and to make room for you at the table you’ll be waiting a lifetime.”