Kariman Abuljadayel made history yesterday to become the first ever Saudi woman to compete in the Olympics 100 metres.
The 22-year-old came seventh in her preliminary heat with a time the race in 14.61 seconds.
She might be unable to qualify for the showpiece final race, but she won the hearts and minds of millions watching on, winning praise for her efforts on social media.
Congrats for making history #KarimanAbuljadayel ❤️, am so proud of her.
— aaliya. (@a2jur) August 13, 2016
Kariman Abuljadayel the first female sprinter to represent Saudi Arabia! Awesome! And I will shout it from the roof, so screw u trolls.
— Taelyr Vecchione (@TaelyrVecchione) August 13, 2016
— jada !! (@dscnncted) August 13, 2016
— Mubarakah Ibrahim (@FitMuslimah) August 13, 2016
— Zandi (@HerRealHighness) August 12, 2016
It’s definitely a step in the right direction:
The fact #KarimanAbuljadayel was allowed to compete is a step in the right direction. 2020 we should see even more Saudi women compete.
— Jay (@mrmess) August 13, 2016
But many pointed out what we were all thinking:
Abuljadayel follows in the footsteps of marathon runner Sarah Attar, the first female track athlete to compete for Saudi Arabia in the Olympics in 2012 when Saudi Olympic Committee lifted a ban on women competing in the games.
Four women will represent the country in Rio, alongside Attar, Joud Fahmy, and fencer Lubna Al-Omair.
It’s a slight improvement from the two who competed in the 2012 London Summer Olympics and shows some progress in participation, but serious barriers remain.
Saudi Arabia is making tiny steps to reverse decades of denial of women’s sporting rights, by appointing the kingdom’s first head of the women’s section at the General Authority for Sports, but a load more still needs to be done for women’s rights in the kingdom.
Unfortunately this won’t happen overnight, but hopefully this is the beginning of some serious change and prospects for young Saudi women will get better.