Fencing has been included in every Summer Olympic Games since 1896, but this summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be the first to have an athlete wearing a hijab representing the U.S.
Ibtihaj Muhammad, who recently earned the necessary qualifying points to become an Olympic competitor, wears the traditional head covering common for some Muslim women while she competes. According to her bio from USA Fencing, her religious reasons for covering up contributed to her entering the world of fencing.
"Because they were fully covered, my mom suggested that I should try it out when got to high school," Muhammad said in her bio. "As a Muslim female, the sport was uniquely accommodating. My religion requires that my body be fully covered and fencing did just that."
After finishing her academic career at Duke University in North Carolina, Muhammad pursued a fencing career more seriously, according to TeamUSA.org.
"I saw there was a lack of minorities in the sport," Muhammad said in the article. "I recognized that I had a skill set, so I started to pursue fencing full time. I felt that it was something the squad needed. There were barriers that needed to be broken in women's saber."
Muhammad is currently ranked No. 3 in the U.S. and No. 11 in the world. In her USA Fencing bio she lists her parents as an influence for her success.
"My parents have guided me spiritually which has kept me grounded," Muhammad said.
Her spirituality is apparent in her other endeavors as well. Muhammad has also started an online clothing company called Louella. The site lists its goal to fill the "void in the fashion industry for affordable modest clothing" and features many models also wearing head coverings.
"Never let another person's misconceptions about your race, gender or religion hinder you from reaching your goals," reads a caption for a picture featured on Muhammad's Instagram where her hijab can be seen under her fencing mask.
Muhammad will be making history this summer, but her younger sister, Faizah, may not be far behind. Another picture from her Instagram shows both of them celebrating new bronze medals with the hashtag "Muhammad sisters takeover."
In her USA Fencing bio, Muhammad said most people wouldn't picture a person like her being an Olympic fencer, but that she "always believed that with hard work, dedication, and perseverance, I could one day walk with my U.S. teammates into Olympic history."