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Barrier-breaking Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad will discuss her experiences as an American Muslim athlete and changemaker

Posted: 02/19/21

Barrier-breaking Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad will discuss her experiences as an American Muslim athlete and changemaker

Fencer and Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad made history in 2016 when she became the first American to compete for an Olympic medal while wearing a hijab and the first American Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal. 

Muhammad will discuss diversity and activism in sports and how her identity as a woman of color and an American Muslim impacts her within the male-dominated sports world during a free, virtual, live event, called “Breaking the Olympic Standard: A Conversation with Ibtihaj Muhammad,” hosted by the Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS) Committee on March 10 at 7:30 p.m. CDT. 

WUD DLS invites all, including those not affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to attend this free event. Those interested in attending can register here to receive the event livestream link in an email. 

Muhammad says that fencing, the sport in which she earned her medal, found her. She played many sports throughout her childhood, including tennis and track. However, she found her mother often had to modify her uniforms by adding long trousers or long sleeves to follow her values and Muslim faith. 

Then, one day, her mother drove by a local high school, and she and Muhammad saw fencing, which included uniforms that would need no alterations. At the age of 13, she tried fencing and found a sport that she loved and that would not compromise her values. 

While she enjoyed fencing, she recalls moments when she was told she did not belong in her sport. She hopes that her accomplishments in fencing will help challenge misconceptions. Muhammad believes that sports can change the world. 

In addition to her bronze Olympic medal, the Duke University graduate also won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2014 Senior World Championships, and she holds four bronze Senior World medals.

Muhammad’s other accomplishments include but are not limited to launching a fashion brand, called LOUELLA BY IBTIHAJ, with her sisters; being named one of the 2016 “TIME” 100 most influential people; and authoring the book “The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family.”

Mattel also created a Barbie doll in her likeness. The doll is the first Mattel Barbie doll to wear a hijab.

The company’s description of the doll includes the following: “As a brilliant athlete, entrepreneur and inspiration to girls who never saw themselves represented, Ibtihaj is not only celebrated for her accolades but for embracing what made her stand out. Ibtihaj is honored as a Barbie™ ‘Shero,’ a woman who has broken boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls.”

“Ibtihaj Muhammad has accomplished history-making feats while never compromising who she is and what she believes in,” said Caoilfhinn Rauwerdink, WUD DLS Committee associate director of marketing and outreach. “Attendees of this discussion will undoubtedly leave inspired to overcome whatever challenges lie before them.”

WUD DLS hosts lectures by experts to encourage thought-provoking conversations. WUD includes 11 committees and six Wisconsin Hoofers clubs that program thousands of events each year. 

Those interested in attending the Committee’s upcoming event can register here.

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