She Finished Last on the Ice, yet Moved Forward

“I’m not sure we should exaggerate This kind of as well as create more problems for ourselves,” said Alexander Lakernik, a vice president of the skating union, who suggested of which judges at This kind of point already look past the hijab.

Perhaps the skating federation has learned a lesson via FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, which had banned head coverings until 2014 because they supposedly made players susceptible to injury. FIFA began to reconsider when Iran’s women’s team withdrew via a match during the 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament, protesting the restriction.

Basketball’s international federation lifted its ban on head scarves in May.

Even though many women live with restrictions not placed on men inside Middle East — only last week did women gain permission to drive cars in Saudi Arabia — Muslim athletes continue to make high-profile advances.

At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Tugba Karademir of Turkey became the first Muslim woman to compete in figure skating at the Games.

At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the sprinter Ruqaya al Ghasara of Bahrain was said to have become the first woman to wear a hijab inside Games. At the 2012 London Olympics, Saudi Arabia sent women to the Olympics for once. One of its athletes, Sarah Attar, an American-born half miler competing in a hijab, received a standing ovation for her persistence after finishing far behind her competitors in a heat of the 800 meters.

At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad of fresh York became the first Olympian via the United States to compete while wearing a hijab. She won a bronze medal inside team saber competition.


Zahra Lari of the United Arab Emirates, the first figure skater to compete wearing a hijab, finished last in a recent competition yet believes she made progress for Muslim women.

Jun Michael Park for The fresh York Times

Roquiya Cochran, Lari’s mother as well as manager as well as a native of North Carolina, said, “Everyone features a place inside globe, as well as they should develop the ability as well as right to find their place.”

Despite its elitist reputation, figure skating has grown increasingly inclusive. Kuwait as well as Qatar have inquired with the U.A.E. about potential entry into the International Skating Union. So has Lebanon, which already fields Winter Olympic teams in Alpine skiing. At the Nebelhorn competition, Julian Zhi Jie Yee became the first skater via Malaysia to qualify for the Olympics.

Lari said she still hears criticism via social media, always anonymously: “This kind of is actually against your culture. the item’s not part of your religion.” No stranger has complained to her face.

“the item’s just close-minded people who don’t understand the sport or of which there’s nothing wrong with the item,” Lari said.

There has been another, more amusing reaction — marriage proposals on her Facebook fan page.

Her mother laughed: “the item’s immediate delete as well as block.”

At one time, Lari has said in interviews, her father, Fadhel, a telecommunications executive, had reservations about her skating. yet he is actually at This kind of point supportive, as well as the sport is actually a family affair. Lari’s parents started out the first official skating club inside U.A.E., as well as her mother is actually the country’s sports manager for figure skating.

“The value of what Zahra is actually doing is actually huge, not just inside country, yet I think for all young Muslim girls to have confidence in themselves as well as to know of which if there something they want to do in their lives, they should live their dreams as well as go for the item,” Cochran said.

In March, Nike announced of which the item could follow various other companies as well as introduce a lightweight hijab for athletic competition, beginning next spring. Lari is actually among the athletes featured in its campaign, to which reaction has been mixed. Some on social media have accused Nike of financial opportunism as well as validating the oppression of women.

Lari, who features a sponsorship deal with Nike, said, “I think they’re genuinely fighting for girls inside Arab region. the item’s great having a big sports brand doing of which.”

Lari began skating at 12 after watching the Disney movie “Ice Princess.” A full-time student at Abu Dhabi University, she sandwiches her training between her studies of environmental health as well as safety as well as the availability of ice time in a country which has a growing interest in hockey as well as only three Olympic-size rinks.

She trains via 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., attends class, returns to the rink via 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., goes back to school, then trains off the ice via 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. the item can be exhausting, as well as Lari feels self-imposed pressure to represent the fresh aspirations of an entire country. yet she is actually young as well as there is actually time to improve before trying to qualify for the 2022 Games in Beijing.

“I feel proud,” Lari said, yet when she is actually on the ice, “the item doesn’t cross my mind what a big thing I’m doing. I’m just doing something I love.”

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