Kulsoom Abdullah is a CrossFitter and Olympic-weightlifting competitor who is breaking social constructions.
To enter the U.S.A. National and American Open, the required attire is a singlet. According to her religious beliefs, Abdullah wears a traditional outfit including headscarf, so she inadvertently found herself standing up for her religious rights. Her plight became a human-rights case that created a media frenzy over Olympic-weightlifting standards for attire.
“The idea of the Olympics is you want to include as many people as you can,” she says. “I didn’t know my situation was that big.”
Abdullah submitted a presentation to the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) on alternative dress codes, and the IWF ruled in her favor.
Abdullah’s case has also won her public and financial support for her competitions. In addition to being funded at the nationals and the worlds, Abdullah was even accepted into the Pakistan Weightlifting Federation as the first woman on their team and competed for them in the 2011 World Weightlifting Championships.
Abdullah is happy with her success and says she felt obligated to speak up for those who couldn’t.
“Not everyone is going to have this opportunity,” she says. “I should keep sharing my story, and if it’s gonna help with the global issues and other women, I should just keep doing it.”
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Additional reading: New Friends by Mike Warkentin, published Oct. 4, 2010.