Muslim Woman in Hijab Becomes First Fully Covered Competitor in Weightlifting Championship

July 15, 2011 - 5:59 PM
Muslim Woman Makes History at Weightlifting Event

Nationals Abdullah Weightlifting

Kulsoom Abdullah, of Atlanta, competes during the national weightlifting championships on Friday, July 15, 2011, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Abdullah is the first woman to compete in the championships while wearing clothing that covers her legs, arms and head, in keeping with her Muslim faith, after the International Weightlifting Federation ruled on her behalf that athletes could wear a full-body

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Kulsoom Abdullah became the first woman to compete in the U.S. weightlifting championships on Friday while wearing clothing that covers her legs, arms and head.

Abdullah was cleared to compete in accordance with her Muslim faith after the International Weightlifting Federation ruled two weeks ago that athletes could wear a full-body "unitard" under the customary weightlifting uniform.

IWF rules previously stated that a weightlifter's knees and elbows must be visible so officials can determine if a lift is correctly executed.

Abdullah, a 35-year-old from Atlanta who weighed in at 105 pounds, competed before a small crowd of roughly 100 lifters, their family members and friends in Council Bluffs, Iowa, just across the river from Omaha.

Wearing a flowing black hijab and matching top with a tan, long-sleeved undershirt and long black socks, Abdullah cleared a snatch of 41 kilograms, or just over 90 pounds, and 57 kilograms (126.7 pounds) in the clean and jerk.

The soft-spoken Abdullah, who finished fifth out of six competitors in her weight class, said she would have liked to score higher but had nonetheless accomplished what she set out to do.

"I'm really happy that I got this experience and that there's a lot of support, and I hope that it could encourage other women and people, whether it's weightlifting or another sport, to try competition because it's fun to meet people," Abdullah said. "Just to hope that people have a good attitude about wanting to include people. I think it helps when people get along."

USA Weightlifting CEO John Duff told The Associated Press that Abdullah's appearance was a key milestone for the sport and a great step forward for inclusion within weightlifting.

"Weightlifters are a pretty pure bunch, in that they look at things very objectively. Can she lift, or can't she lift?" Duff said. "It doesn't really matter what people look like, what they dress like, where they come from or what they represent. It's, they are a competitor and an fellow athlete."