The first Saudi woman to compete at the Olympics may have bowed out after only 80 seconds on the judo mat on Friday but she was hailed as a heroine by many web-users in her homeland and given an enthusiastic reception by the Olympic crowd.
Only a week ago, softly spoken and shy teenager Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani had been labelled a “whore” on Twitter by some in conservative Saudi Arabia, but that criticism has been since drowned out by an outpouring of support and applause.
Her appearance had been in doubt due to wrangling days over whether judo authorities would allow her to wear an Islamic headscarf while competing, but in the end she entered the arena wearing something akin to a swimming cap.
“I’m really happy to be at the Olympics and proud to represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and thank all those who stood with me,” she told Reuters, clutching her older brother’s hand as they negotiated a media scrum.
Shaherkani, one of two Saudi women chosen to compete at the Games, was defeated in the first round of the +78kg judo category by Melissa Mojica of Puerto Rico.
READ ON: Saudi’s first woman bows out after symbolic show