An Egyptian athlete has become the first woman from an Arab country to win an Olympic medal in weightlifting.
Sara Ahmed won bronze in the women’s 69kg weight class on Wednesday, lifting a combined weight of 255kg to finish behind China’s Xiang Yanmei who took gold and Kazakhstan’s Zhazira Zhapparkul, who claimed silver.
Ahmed competed wearing a full-length unitard and sport’s hijab after the International Weightlifting Federation changed its rules in 2011 to allow women to compete in the longer garments – a move benefiting Muslim women.
She lifted 112 kg in the snatch and 143 kg in the clean and jerk. As her podium finish was confirmed she was seen breaking into tears and hugging her coach.
“It’s a very great honour and I cannot express it,” she told AFP following her iconic achievement. “It’s not easy to compete here because all the athletes are very experienced.”
She said she had become interested in the sport through her weightlifting brother and said she did not know what kind of reception she would receive on her return to Egypt.
“I hope it will encourage other girls to take up the sport. A new weightlifting generation can be born, a new beginning,” she told Channel News Asia.
“I hope I can help to re-establish Egypt as a successful weightlifting nation.”
Egypt could also receive a silver medal from the women’s 75kg class in the 2012 London Olympics, in which Abeer Abdelrahman finished fifth behind three lifters currently under investigation after failing drug tests.
Ahmed is not the only female Egyptian athlete to benefit from changes to sporting uniform regulations.
Doaa Elghobashy, who competed against Germany with her partner Nada Meawad in the beach volleyball tournament on Sunday, wore a hijab, long sleeves and trousers during the match after the International Volleyball Federation relaxed uniform regulations before the London Olympics to allow full sleeves and trousers.
“I have worn the hijab for 10 years,” she told the Associated Press. “It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.”