Rio Olympics: Bronze for hijab-wearing US fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad

"This has been a long journey for us," said Muhammad. "This is six years in the making. "I`ll never forget this moment.

AFP| Last Updated: Aug 14, 2016, 06:30 AM IST

Rio de Janeiro: Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad came to the Rio Games determined to show the world that Muslim-American women could compete in elite sports.

And the 30-year-old from New Jersey, the first US Olympian to wear a hijab -- a headscarf worn by Muslim women -- during competition, came away with a bronze medal on Saturday in the women`s team sabre event.

The four-woman US team -- which also included double Olympic champion Dagmara Wozniak, Mariel Zagunis and Monica Aksamit -- beat Italy 45-30 to seal third place and the first women`s medal in fencing for the Americans in Rio.

"This has been a long journey for us," said Muhammad. "This is six years in the making. "I`ll never forget this moment.

"We`ve worked so hard for this, and to be able to compete at the level that we`ve worked towards, on the world`s biggest stage at the Olympic Games, is truly a blessing for us."

Muhammad, who runs her own fashion shop which specialises in women`s clothing, has in recent years been involved in a US government-backed programme to empower women and girls through sport.

Team-mate Wozniak, who had dyed her hair purple, said: "This is sport. It doesn`t matter what hair colour you have, what religion you are.

"The point is to go out there and be the best athlete you can be, and I think we`re the best explanation of what America is, a mix of so many different cultures and races and everything all together."

Zagunis claimed her fourth Olympic medal, and second in bronze after 2008 with the US team. The 31-year-old was also individual sabre champion in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.

The US came back after a 45-42 semi-final loss to world champions Russia, who continued their domination of the event by claiming a first Olympic title in Rio, beating the Ukraine 45-30 in the final.

It was a double gold for Russia`s Yana Egorian, who won the women`s individual title last week, ahead of team-mate Sofiya Velikaya.