Egyptian weightlifter Sara Ahmed made history at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro by becoming the first Arab woman to ever win an Olympic medal in the women’s weightlifting category. The 18-year-old bronze medalist came third in the 69kg group behind Kazakhstan’s Zhazira Zhapparkul who was awarded the silver medal, and China’s Xiang Yanmei who won the gold medal.
The trailblazing athlete donned a modest unitard and a sports hijab to compete. In 2011, the International Weightlifting Federation changed the rules to accommodate countries with different dressing customs, and thus enabled Muslim competitors to participate wearing full-coverage uniforms.
Following in her brother’s footsteps, Ahmed took up weightlifting in 2011. Before qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games, she had already achieved a number of victories—such as winning the 2015 World Youth Weightlifting Championships in Lima, Peru. That same year, Ahmed placed fourth at the World Weightlifting Championships after winning the gold medal in the 63kg weightlifting category at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, which took place in Nanjing, China.