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Olympics

Attar becomes first Saudi female track Olympian

  • Sarah Attar gets ready before the start of the women's 800m heats at the athletics event of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 in London. (AFP PHOTO/OLIVIER MORIN)

  • Sarah Attar competes the women's 800m heats at the athletics event of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 in London. (AFP PHOTO/OLIVIER MORIN)

  • Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar starts her women's 800m round 1 heat during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 8, 2012. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

  • Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar runs in her women's 800m round 1 heat at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 8, 2012. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

LONDON: Sarah Attar became the first female track and field athlete to represent Saudi Arabia at an Olympics when she competed in the 800 meters heats Wednesday.

The 19-year-old, who wore a white head cover, a long-sleeved green top and black leggings and sported luminous green running spikes, received a generous ovation from a capacity crowd at the Olympic stadium as she trailed in last of the eight runners.

"It's an incredible experience," Attar, who has dual United States citizenship and is a student at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, told reporters.

"It is the hugest honor to be here to represent the women of Saudi Arabia.

"It is an historic moment. I hope it will make a difference. It is a huge step forward. It's a really incredible experience."

Attar, who clocked two minutes 44.95 seconds - over 43 seconds behind heat winner Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei of Kenya - was the second Saudi woman to compete at the Games following judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had extended a special invitation to Shaherkani and Attar after it pressed Saudi Arabia to end its ban on female participation.

Some conservative Saudis had criticized their countrywomen's participation in London after Saudi Arabia broke with its practice of sending male-only teams to the world's biggest sporting event.

 

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