CAIRO - With tears rolling down her checks, young Qatari athlete Bahya Mansour Al-Hamad can't believe that she is taking part in the London Olympics.
"Yes, this is my dream come true," emotional Al-Hamad told the Los Angeles Times.
The 20-year-old artillery player is participating in the Olympics for the first time in her life.
Though she finished 17th in the 10-meter air rifle, the Muslim athlete is not upset because she was making history being among the first female athletes representing her country.Ramadan and the Olympics (Special Folder)
Al-Hamad is one of Muslim athletes from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei, who are carving out their place in history as pioneer female athletes from the three countries in the Olympics.
After considerable pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the three countries agreed to change their policies and allow female athletes in the Olympics.
This summer marks the first time every team has at least one woman on the roster.
Fifteen years earlier, dozens of countries sent only men to the Olympics.
"This is a major boost for gender equality," IOC President Jacques Rogge told the crowd at Olympics' opening ceremony on Friday.
Choosing Al-Hamad to carry the national flag in the opening ceremony, Qatar also brought swimmer Nada Mohammed WS Arakji, sprinter Noor Hussain Al-Malki and table tennis player Aia Mohamed.
Brunei similarly named its lone woman, runner Maziah Mahusin, as flag bearer.
Saudi Arabia also agreed to bring judoka Wojdan Shaherkani and runner Sarah Attar to the Games.
"A big inspiration for participating in the Olympic Games is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going," Attar said in an IOC news release.
"It's such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport."
Making History Praising the move, many wonder whether the seven Muslim pioneers in London will lead to more female athletes in future Olympics.
"Look at where we are now," sports sociologist Mary Jo Kane at the University of Minnesota said.
"It is a very slow process, but one of the things sport teaches us as human beings is perseverance."
Given their high profile and global audience, the Olympics can be especially useful in changing perceptions.
"Where sport has its biggest impact is on the masses," said Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a three-time gold medalist in swimming and Florida law professor who advocates gender equity.
"It's huge to give girls all over the world role models."
Arriving at the Royal Artillery Barracks on the first full day of competition, Al-Hamad was taken by the significance of the day.
Another Qatari player, Mohamed, lost Saturday to Mo Zhang of Canada in the preliminary round of the table tennis competition.
Sharing emotional moments, they were fully aware with the moment they wrote history for their country."I'm so proud of this, Al-Hamad said.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net