LONDON — Sarah Attar and Amy Atkinson finished last in their respective 800-meter heats Wednesday morning but both women still took great strides forward.
Attar, a Pepperdine University junior who became Saudi Arabia’s first female track Olympian, received a huge ovation from the crowd at the Olympic Stadium when she was introduced and an even louder ovation after she crossed the finish line. Her time was 2 minutes, 44.95 seconds, placing her 39th among 40 competitors, but her performance requires some context.
Attar, 19, ran while wearing a full, white head-covering, a long-sleeved green jacket and long pants in deference to Saudi cultural restrictions on women. She has dual U.S. and Saudi citizenship because her father is Saudi. She usually competes in the 1,500 and 3,000 and is coached in San Diego by Joaquim Cruz, who also coaches elite U.S. 800-meter runner Alice Schmidt.
After her race Attar declined interview requests. Asked how the Games have gone for her, she said, “It’s a really incredible experience,” and continued walking toward the athletes’ area beneath the stadium.