Pepperdine University student Sarah Attar, 19, was greeted with thunderous applause Wednesday as she made history at the Olympics by becoming the first Saudi Arabian woman to run track at the games.
Covered from head to toe in long sleeves, pants and a head scarf, Attar came in last place in the 800 meter run, but Robert Radnoti, her coach at Pepperdine, says that he couldn’t be more proud.
“I think you saw how much the crowd valued it. We did. The entire student body. I’ve heard from people all over the country say how great it is.” Radnoti said.
The California-born Attar has dual citizenship. Her mother is American and her father is Saudi. She grew up near San Diego and is an art major at Pepperdine where she trained as a long-distance runner.
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When she learned that Saudi Arabia had bowed to pressure by the International Olympic Committee to allow women athletes to participate for the first time, she jumped at the chance to compete.
“She had that sense of pride you can see in the video of her, that spirit and smile,” Radnoti said.
Attar’s run comes five days after another Saudi woman was allowed to fight in the Olympics Judo competition.
Saudi Arabia joins the Islamic countries of Qatar and Brunei in allowing women to participate for the first time, making this the first Olympics in which every national team includes a woman.