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How Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Is Transforming Team U.S.A.

by Raphael Chestang 5:43 PM PDT, June 03, 2016
Playing How Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Is Transforming Team U.S.A.

As the first American Olympian to compete while wearing a hijab, New Jersey-born Muslim Ibtihaj Muhammad is making history on the U.S. fencing team by embracing what made her stand out and not compromising her beliefs.

Growing up, Muhammad was a gifted athlete, excelling in multiple sports, but there was one thing holding her back.

"When I would run track or play tennis, my teammates wore shorts or short sleeves," Muhammad explained to ET. "My parents would have to adjust the uniform for me by adding long sleeves or wearing sweatpants. Each of those sports I had a hard time fitting in, because I wasn't in uniform with my teammates."

An important element that drew Muhammad to fencing was the fact that it gave her the opportunity to pursue her desire to be an athlete while allowing her to be herself as a Muslim woman. Her resolve is what drew media attention and eventually landed her a spot on Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2016.

At the Time 100 Gala, the 30-year-old U.S. fencing world champion had the surreal experience of rubbing shoulders with such stars as Nicki Minaj, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gina Rodriguez and Melissa McCarthy.

"I felt like it was a mistake," Muhammad said. "It seemed like everyone there was a celebrity."

Regardless of how Muhammad felt about being counted among Hollywood royalty at the Time 100 Gala, Visa chief brand and innovation officer, Chris Curtain, assured ET it was no mistake that his company picked Muhammad to join Team Visa Rio 2016.

"We've picked these athletes very carefully this year with an eye toward their story, not just their athleticism," he said.

Visa also wanted us to tell you about their latest addition to their team,18-year-old refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini, who grew up in Syria, but fled to Greece a year ago on a small inflatable dinghy with 20 others. She is hoping to represent a small team of refugee Olympic athletes in Rio de Janeiro this year.

Watch the video to find out how easy it is for the 45 Team Visa athletes to make purchases with their Visa Rings.

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