Veiled woman sprints to gold

Ruqaya Al Ghasara says her hijab was anything but a hindrance to her win.

By Tracy Clark-Flory
Published December 11, 2006 11:15PM (EST)

Today, Bahraini sprinter Ruqaya Al Ghasara won the women's 200-meter dash at the Asian Games... wearing a hijab. It seems counterintuitive: Runners typically wear small, tight-fitting clothing. But Al Ghasara was outfitted with a white hijab featuring a red Nike swoosh and a bodysuit covering everything but her face and hands. (Interestingly, Nike has also designed movement-friendly hijabs for female volleyball players in northeastern Kenya.)

There's plenty of ongoing debate about the appropriateness of the hijab in sports, but Al Ghasara's scorecard is pretty impressive. Last December, she became the first woman to win a race at the West Asian Games, according to the Guardian. And she's certainly a sight to behold next to her competitors, many of whom are clad in spandex bikini-cut bottoms and bra tops. For her part, she says the hijab has actually improved her athleticism. "Wearing conservative clothes has encouraged me," Al Ghasara said. "Wearing a veil proves that Muslim women face no obstacles and encourages them to participate in sport. This is a glory to all Muslim women."

Sure, Al Ghasara is overstating the case when she says there are no obstacles facing Muslim women. But it's hard to argue against Muslim women's increasing presence in professional sports, whether they're sporting the hijab or not. Go team!

Tracy Clark-Flory

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