Qatari sprinter Noor Al-Malki and Tahmina Kohistani of Afghanistan both were decked out in long pants and long sleeves during their preliminary 100-meter sprint for the first day of track and field events of the London Olympics.
Al-Malki, who also wore a cap, left the blocks and immediately started hopping with her hand on the back of her leg and a pained look on her face. She had to be carted off the track. Kohistani, sporting a head scarf in the colors of her country, was at least able to finish her sprint in 14.42 seconds but she came in comfortably in last place.
Their performances will not be remembered forever. But will be remembered is simply their presence in the Olympics. At just 17 years old, Al-Malki is the first woman to compete for her country. Her trailblazing has opened the door to other women from her country. It doesn't matter that she couldn't finish her race. Her presence on the track and competing in the Olympics is a huge middle finger to the social forces holding other women back.
The same thing goes for Kohistani. As Afghanistan's only female athlete, she is truly a strong person. She has had to put up with the belief in her country that women shouldn't compete. She recently wrote an essay in The Telegraph on July 31 about the obstacles she has had to overcome. She said that her dream would be to meet Usain Bolt and that she is truly happy when she is able to train while listening to music.
This is what makes the Olympics so great. Being able to see humanity gather and bash down social barriers is inspiring. Even though neither of these women were able to move on from their heats, we should remember them forever. They are an example of why every single person on this planet should have a chance to compete.