Saudi Arabia is sending four women to the Olympics in Rio next week.
For a country where women are not allowed to drive, wear make-up, swim in public, and many other things, this is big news.
The decision by the Saudi Arabia Olympic Committee to send Sara Al-Attar, Lubna Al-Omair, Cariman Abu Al-Jadail and Wujud Fahmi to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which start Aug. 5, is monumental step forward for women in the country.
Attar will be running the 800m, while Jadail will run the 100m. Omair will compete in fencing and Fahmi will compete in judo — though in a separate weight class than Olympic Refugee Team athlete Yolande Mabika.
The athletes will still not be allowed to enter competitions in diving and swimming due to the country’s restrictive gender policies. They will also need to be accompanied by male guardians during their time in Rio.
It is only the second time in history women from Saudi Arabia will be allowed to compete in the Olympic games. The first time was in London in 2012, where two women competed in the summer Olympics there. Sara Al-Attar is one of those women. She ran the 800m in 2012 and returns for the same event this year.
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The Olympics generally have very strict guidelines for qualifications but, at times, allow athletes to compete without meeting all the early steps of qualifications. Known as a wildcard entry, this helps open up competition, increasing diversity and can even lead to an “upset” in terms of those previously favored to win. All four women competing for Saudi Arabia will be wildcard entries.
Let’s cheer on these brave women who will be showing the world that taking a risk to defy rigid gender norms is worth the fight.