Athletes & Celebrities

How Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad is Changing Up the Olympics

Read about the fencer's training, nutrition, and balancing her career with her religion.

Ibtihaj Muhammad is Making History

Top Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad will be making history during this year’s Olympics as the first Muslim to represent the US while wearing a hijab. Speaking recently at a Visa press event, Muhammad spoke about the gratitude she feels.

“I remember as a kid, being told that I didn’t belong. I remember being told that I couldn’t achieve things because I was different. And to be able to join a remarkable team like Visa on the platform of acceptance is such an exciting moment for me as an athlete.” 

Muhammad took up fencing as a young girl, and in college she was three-time All-American and 2005 Junior Olympic Champion. 

Many consider fencing to be similar to martial arts; training is rigorous and sometimes fencers will take up ballet in order to perfect things such as balance and footwork. 

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Just as important as training is of course nutrition, something which Muhammad takes seriously as well.  

“She’s not one to eat badly, but I know she sometimes likes to not eat meat, but that really helps with iron and things like that. It helps when you eat a lot of lean meat and vegetables,” said Muhammad’s trainer, Akhnaten Spencer-El.  

Although it can be tough for any athlete to consume sufficient protein, it is perhaps a bit more challenging for Muhammad, who is as dedicated to her faith as she is to her career. 

“She will go hungry if she has to touch anything she doesn’t really know, or if we go to a country that has warnings about the food there, and about the meats there. She won’t even touch it,” said Spencer-El. “Every time she competes, she has to be in the best shape.  She has to go out and compete and be at her best, so nutrition is extremely important.”

Despite any challenges, Muhammad is determined to "bring home something shiny and gold" when she competes this summer in Rio. Good luck, Muhammad! We'll be watching!