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Sarah Attar Becomes Saudi Arabia's First Female Track Olympian

It's a moment worth noting: Like judoko Wojdan Shaherkani before her, 19-year-old Sarah Attar became Saudi Arabia's first female track Olympian, today.

As Reuters reports, Attar ran the 800 meter heat in a "white head cover, a long-sleeved green top, black leggings" and " luminous green running spikes."

The result was less than stellar. Attar came in last at 2:44.95. Thirty-two seconds behind the seventh place winner and almost 44 seconds behind the first place finisher.

Still, Attar said it was a huge honor to represent the women of Saudi Arabia.

"It is an historic moment," she said, according to Reuters. "I hope it will make a difference. It is a huge step forward. It's a really incredible experience."

It's also important to note that these competitions pose a personal risk to the athletes. After Shaherkani's participation, she faced insults.

Over the weekend, the AFP reported that Shaherkani's father threatened to sue those that hurled insults after his daughter competed. He said that criticisms of her performance were fair game, but some went too far.

Mohammed al-Barrak, a lecturer at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca, for example, tweeted that Shaherkani did not "represent the chaste Muslim woman."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.