Saudi Arabia’s First Female Competitor

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Saudi Arabia’s Wojdan Shaherkani (R) fights with Puerto Rico’s Melissa Mojica during their women’s +78kg elimination round of 32 judo match at the London 2012 Olympic Games August 3, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (BRITAIN)

Wojdan Shaherkhani was never expected to win. The 16-year-old heavyweight judoka is less experienced than her competitors; she only holds a blue belt. Nevertheless, she made history this morning as the first woman ever to compete for Saudi Arabia.

Though Shaherkhani lost the match to Puerto Rican competitor Melissa Mojica, she recognized her moment in the spotlight. According to NBC, immediately after her match she said she was “happy to be at the Olympics,” adding: “Unfortunately, we did not win a medal, but in the future we will and I will be a star for women’s participation.”

Shaherkhani has the support of her father as well; an international judo referee, he attended his daughter’s first-ever international match, noting to NBC the odds she was up against.

Though the young judoka faced criticism and even insults from some of her countrymen online, there was also plenty of support: