Saudi Arabia will send four women to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, doubling its female participation after two women competed for the first time at the 2012 London Games. Hosam al-Qurashi, executive director of the Saudi Olympic Committee, told the AP on Sunday that two of the women will participate in track and field, one in judo, and one in fencing. The track and field athletes are Sarah Attar, who competed in 2012, and Cariman Abu al-Jadail. Judoka Wujud Fahmi and fencer Lubna al-Omair are the other competitors. Attar, Abu al-Jadail, and Fahmi have been training in the United States, where they are students. Al-Omair will be traveling to Rio from the eastern Saudi city of Khobar.
The decision to double the number of women athletes comes amid a backdrop of incremental, significant openings for Saudi women, including the right to vote and run as candidates for the first time in the country's elections for municipal council seats in December. Al-Qurashi said a total of 11 Saudi athletes are competing in Rio, five of which were given wild card entries by the International Olympic Committee, including all four women. The female athletes, al-Qurashi said, will be participating in line with the kingdom's social guidelines, meaning they will be adhering to the Muslim country's traditional and religious requirements regarding their attire and the sports they participate in. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)