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Saudi Arabia's first female Olympian 'honoured' despite quick exit

Wojdan Shaherkani makes history for Saudi Arabia – but is quickly eliminated from her women’s over-78kg judo tournament.

Wojdan Shaherkani's participation was only guaranteed on Tuesday, when a row over her headgear was resolved.
Wojdan Shaherkani's participation was only guaranteed on Tuesday, when a row over her headgear was resolved.
Image: Paul Sancya/AP

SAUDI ARABIAN judoka Wojdan Shaherkani became the first ever female Saudi athlete to compete at the Olympic Games today, but her historic debut lasted just 82 seconds.

Looking nervous and wearing a swimming cap-style head covering, she was beaten by Melissa Mojica of Puerto Rico in the first round of the women’s over-78kg category.

“I’m glad and honoured to participate in the Olympic Games and I will continue to practice this sport,” she told AFP after her fleeting visist to the tatami at the ExCeL Centre.

Heavyweight Shaherkani was only given the go-ahead to fight at the Olympics on Tuesday, after a row over the wearing of a hijab was resolved.

The Saudis had threatened to pull the 16-year-old fighter out of the Games if she was forced to compete with her head uncovered.

However, a compromise has been found and on Friday she appeared on the mat sporting a tight-fitting, black cap.

Shaherkani was one of two women sent from the conservative kingdom to an Olympics for the first time, but the Saudis only agreed on condition that their athletes respect a strict dress code.

The second competitor is American-raised 800m runner Sarah Attar who grew up mostly in California, where she took up cross country running. She will compete in the women’s 800m next Wednesday.

- © AFP, 2012

Live: London 2012 Olympics, day seven

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