RIO DE JANEIRO — The bout ended with Ibtihaj Muhammad tumbling backward, driven off the fencing strip by her opponent, driven straight out of the women's sabre competition.
It was not the result she had hoped for, but the 30-year-old New Jersey native wasn't going to let it overshadow her groundbreaking day at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
"I wouldn't say I felt down and out," she said. "I realize this moment is bigger than me."
Monday morning, Muhammad became the first American to compete at the Games in a hijab, the headscarf traditionally worn by some Muslim women. Her religion had made headlines and she had patiently faced the media in recent months, answering every question, determined to serve as an example at a time when Islam is so controversial in U.S. politics and the news.
"I don't feel like any part of this journey of mine has been a burden," she said. "I feel like it has been a blessing to represent so many people who don't have voices."
Muhammad lost to Cecilia Berder of France 15-12 in the round of 16 after beating Olena Kravatska of Ukraine 15-13.