After successfully giving the heave-ho to restrictions limiting what she can wear, an Atlanta Muslim weightlifter will be pumping iron for another victory Friday.
Kulsoom Abdullah will compete in the 2011 National Weightlifting Championships in Council Bluffs, Iowa, her first national competition since the sport’s international regulators revised rules to allow her and other women to wear less-revealing uniforms.
“It has not settled in yet,” Abdullah said Thursday as she left Atlanta for the competition. “From the moment the IWF [International Weightlifting Federation] made the ruling until now, I have been busy with last-minute preps.”
“I think once I get there, go check out the venue, do some warm-ups, and see other people doing the same, it will sink in,” the Georgia Tech graduate and research aide said.
The IWF changed rules that required all weightlifters to wear a singlet — a tight-fitting one-piece, mid-thigh length outfit with arms and legs exposed — during competition.
Now, women will be allowed to wear a unitard under the compulsory weightlifting costume. The unitard is still a one-piece, skin-tight outfit but with long legs and long sleeves. The unitard will still allow technical officials to verify that lifts, snatches and jerks are being executed properly, the organization said.
With the help of friends, Abdullah said she managed to come up with a uniform that would satisfy referees and her quest for modest dress.
She found a unitard at a dance supply store and an acquaintance’s friend who competes and teaches horse vaulting created a polyester-and-Lycra blend singlet.
“She made it in a day, and I went back a few times for adjustments,” Abdullah said of the seamstress, Elise Beisecker. “I also got a chance to practice in it a few times. I already had a matching hajib and just had to purchase long socks.”
The 35-year-old athlete had pressed both USA Weightlifting and the U.S. Olympic Committee to push for dress reforms, which she hopes will benefit other Muslim women athletes who have been blocked from competition because they wanted to wear less-revealing attire. It was the USOC that urged the IWF to consider changes during a meeting in Malaysia on June 29.
Abdullah, born in the U.S. to Pakistani parents, competes in the women’s senior weightlifting division, in the 48kg (105.6 pounds) and 53kg (116.6 pounds) weight classes. In Iowa, she wants to at least exceed her top results in the snatch, and clean and jerk. Her top snatch weight is 47.5kg (104.5 pounds), and her top clean and jerk is 62kg (or 136.4 pounds).
Although it’s not part of Friday’s competition, Abdullah, who weighs about 100 pounds, has dead-lifted as much as 111kg (244.2 pounds).
After Council Bluffs, she has her sights on several upcoming weightlifting events, including the Georgia Games’ 2011 Weightlifting Olympic Championships on Aug. 6. This event at the Newnan Recreation Center will occur during the Muslim month of Ramadan.
“I would most likely be fasting for that meet,” Abdullah said. “I have trained before while fasting, so I think it should not be too bad since a competition is not as intense as training.”
She also plans to compete in the 2011 American Masters competition Nov. 12-13 in Savannah. Later, she will participate in the 2011 American Open Dec. 2-4 in Mobile, Ala., an event she had to pull out of last year because of the battle over her attire.
Abdullah’s coach, Travis Cooper, told The Associated Press that he worries about opposition to the rules change on uniforms.
“There’s a lot of stress that goes along with that,” Cooper said. “Some people don’t necessarily agree with the rules change. I would hope everyone is supportive.”
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