Female Muslim athletes have been reeled into a tug-of-war. Their communities, predominantly, tell them to cover up, and sports federations demand that they do otherwise.
The war on Muslim women in sports has toned down, but the battle is far from over. For athletes who wear the hijab--the headscarf worn by some Muslim women--every step on the field is a statement, every game a political battle.
Sports federations have long banned headwear in official competitions, deeming it “unsafe”.
Modest attire was not allowed in weightlifting competitions until 2011 and beach volleyball until 2012. Veiled basketball players are still fighting to compete professionally.
Amazingly, Muslim women aren't pulling any punches.
Numerous Muslim women took part in this year’s Rio Olympics, and many wore the hijab. Some even won medals. More importantly, they won hearts as they tore through stereotypes one game at a time.
Here are 9 #Rio2016 Muslim women who reminded us that only by staying true to ourselves, can we rise above cultural and religious differences.
1. Doaa El Ghobashy, Egypt
Picture your typical female beach volleyball player. Now add pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and throw a hijab on her. It's an image that shocked the world.
El Ghobashy made history twice this year. First by being part of Egypt’s first Olympic beach volleyball duo – male or female. Second by becoming the first headscarved beach volleyball player to ever compete in the Olympics.
"I have worn the hijab for 10 years," she told AP . "It doesn't keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them."
2. Sara Ahmed, Egypt
Ahmed won Egypt’s first Rio Olympic medal, a weightlifting bronze in the 69-kilogram category.
She asserted that Arab and Muslim women are in for the glory. She challenged prejudices against women practicing strength sports, which is still often seen as exclusive to males.
Ahmed became the first Egyptian sportswoman and the first Arab female weightlifter to stand on the Olympic podium.
3. Hedaya Malak, Egypt
Malak - ranked fourth in the world in her weight class - gave the Arab World its first Olympic medal won by a female taekwondo fighter.
She won the 57-kilogram bronze and celebrated her incredible achievement in style.
4. Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin, Iran
Zenoorin stood on the taekwondo podium with a bronze medal around her neck, alongside Malak.
Zenourin climbed from a ranking of 15th, to beat the world's third best in the second bronze medal match of the 57-kilogram category.
She became the first Iranian women to ever win an Olympic medal.
“I am so happy for Iranian girls because it is the first medal and I hope at the next Olympics we will get a gold,” she told BBC . "I thank God that I made history with my bronze to pave the way for other Iranian women."
5. Ibtihaj Muhammad, USA
Muhammad had a two-pronged achievement. She was the first veiled athlete to represent the United States of America at the Olympics, and she hammered all the skeptics by winning a medal. These were her very first Olympic Games.
Ranked the second-best female American saber fencer and seventh in the world, Muhammad's team USA won the women’s saber bronze in Rio.
She first made history several years ago when she became the first female Muslim fencer to compete for the U.S.. Fencing allows women to compete fully covered without having to modify their uniforms, a fact that Muhammad says fostered her interest in the sport.
The Duke University graduate addresses Islamophobia in the U.S. often, and is a vocal supporter the Palestinian people. “I feel like I owe it to people who look like me to speak out (about her experiences with Islamophobia)," Muhammad said, according to The Independent . "When I hear someone say something like, 'We're going to send Muslims back to their countries,' I say, 'Well, I'm American. Where am I going to go?"
"I am excited to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions people have about Muslim women,” she told the BBC . “I want to show people that we can not only be on any Olympic team, but on the US Olympic team which is the strongest of the world's teams."
6. Dalilah Muhammad, USA
Another devoted Muslim, Dalilah Muhammad raised the American flag on the podium in Rio.
This hurdler won gold in the 400-meter race, becoming the first American woman to win an Olympic gold in that sport. She is the fastest female 400-meter hurdler this year.
“I’m proud to be part of the Muslim community, so it’s definitely amazing; Muslims out there representing for the United States,” she told The Undefeated .
7-9. Kariman Abuljadayel, Sarah Attar and Lubna Al Omair, Saudi Arabia
The trio was part of the second-ever group of Saudi sportswomen to take part in the Olympics, after Saudi women made their Olympic debut at London 2012.
Al Omair competed in foil fencing and Abuljadayel in the 100-meter track race, while two-time Olympian Attar took on the marathon. All three have become the first Saudi women to compete in their respective sports at the Olympics, with Attar becoming the first Saudi - man or woman - to participate in an Olympic marathon.
They were joined by judoka Joud Fahmy, who we never watched compete. She forfeited the competition before her first game, ostensibly due to an injury. Some speculated that she withdrew in order to avoid facing off with the Israeli she was scheduled to encounter in the second round.
9. Majlinda Kelmendi, Kosovo
At its very first Olympic participation after gaining independence from Serbia, Kosovo won its first Olympic medal. It was a gold - all thanks to this judoka, who won the 52-kilogram event.
Kelmendi has added an Olympic gold to an already impressive roster. She has two World Championship gold medals and three European titles.