LONDON (AP) – Sarah Attar finished last and more than a half-minute slower than her nearest competitor in the women’s 800 meters. Yet hundreds rose to give her a standing ovation as she crossed the finish line.
For the first woman from Saudi Arabia to compete in track and field at the Olympics, the principle was more important than the performance. Attar’s debut came five days after a Saudi judo athlete became the ultraconservative country’s first female competitor at any Olympics.
“This is such a huge honor and an amazing experience, just to be representing the women,” Attar said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I know that this can make a huge difference.”
The 19-year-old Attar ran 800 meters in 2 minutes, 44.95 seconds. To her, the time wasn’t the point. Her mother is American and her father is Saudi. She has dual citizenship, born in California and running track at Pepperdine University near Los Angeles.
Attar wanted to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics as a way of inspiring women.
“For women in Saudi Arabia, I think this can really spark something to get more involved in sports, to become more athletic,” she said. “Maybe in the next Olympics, we can have a very strong team to come.”