Posted on February 15, 2019

On Thursday, American-Muslim fencer Ibtihaj Muhammed visited Aspire Academy, spending time with Qatar’s young athletes, hearing about the Academy’s philosophy on a guided tour and gaining first hand insight on Aspire’s fencing programme.

Ibtihaj Muhammad is a renowned sabre fencer on the United States Fencing Team. She joined the team in 2010 and participated in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics with the US, becoming the first Muslim-American female athlete to win an Olympic medal. She is also best known as the first US athlete to compete at the Olympic Games in a hijab. She became a sporting icon in the US. Major sports apparel company Nike launched the “Nike-Pro hijab” for female Muslim athletes, with Muhammad as its main sponsor. During a 30-minute-long Q&A session with Aspire Academy’s fencing team, she shared many experiences with the Qatari boys and told them about the time she began fencing when she was 13.

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Ibtihaj had words of encouragement for student athletes imploring them to embrace challenges and turn them into success through perseverance and a never-give-up attitude: “If there is anything l can share with Aspire student athletes and the athletes in Qatar in general especially young females, it’s my life story and the journey of overcoming obstacles and barriers to realise my dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you ‘No you can’t pursue your goals’. Set yourself out to chase your dreams with determination and hard work and do not give up – keep on persevering and do your best always.” 

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Ibtihaj also paid tribute to the ethos of holistic approach to education that Aspire Academy pursues. “Aspire Academy is simply phenomenal. I am in awe of this place and what it offers from the unbelievably good facilities to the entire perspective to development of student athletes academically and sport-wise. It’s a joy to be here in Qatar and at Aspire and see people with passion and sound plans for sport development, l am inspired and impressed,” concluded Ibtihaj Muhammed. Her success as a young fencer landed her a scholarship with Duke University where she competed for the Duke fencing team for 4 years and became a 3-time All-American athlete and the 2005 Junior Olympic Champion. She also wrote a book titled “Proud” where she depicts her challenges as a Muslim-American and her successes with the US fencing Olympic team.

Ibtihaj Muhammed’s visit to Qatar was organised by the Government Communications Office as part of their activities around Qatar’s National Sport Day and aimed to amplify Qatar’s efforts and central role in empowering women in Sports and many other areas. Following her tour, she presented a signed copy of her book to the Academy.