Associated Press – Charles Odum July 14th, 2011

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Associated Press – Charles Odum July 14th, 2011

Abdullah breaking down barriers

By CHARLES ODUM Associated Press
Published 12:16 a.m., Thursday, July 14, 2011

ATLANTA — Kulsoom Abdullah’s Ph.D. from Georgia Tech and black belt in taekwondo are proof she doesn’t back away from challenges.

On Friday, she will become the first woman to compete in the national weightlifting championships while wearing clothing that covers her legs, arms and head, in keeping with her Muslim faith.

The 35-year-old entered the nationals in Council Bluffs, Iowa, after the International Weightlifting Federation ruled on her behalf two weeks ago that athletes could wear a full-body “unitard” under the customary weightlifting uniform.

The ruling placed a spotlight on Abdullah, who lives in Atlanta, for her first national competition.

“It will be like an ice-breaker type of experience and hopefully getting over nerves and things like that because I’ve never been to a competition at this level,” Abdullah told the Associated Press.

She said she already considers her participation a victory, simply because she now has the right to lift while covered.

“I think that was the biggest thing for me,” she said. “So even if I don’t do my best or my personal records, I think that was the big thing for me. The accomplishment was to get started competing.”

Before last month’s ruling, IWF rules stated that an athlete’s knees and elbows must be visible so officials can determine if a lift is correctly executed. The unitard, worn under the customary weightlifting uniform, will provide Abdullah the covering her faith requires while allowing judges to see if she properly locks her elbows and knees.

IWF vice president Sam Coffa of Australia, who leads the organization’s technical committee, noted in the ruling that weightlifters always have been allowed to wear head coverings such as the hijab.

Abdullah, who trains under coaches Travis Cooper and Jake Rubash, rushed to find a suitable unitard while also scrambling to accelerate her workout schedule.

Abdullah, who weighs about 100 pounds, will compete in the 48 kilogram (105.82 pounds) weight class. Rubash said she can dead lift about 250 pounds.

But Mom won’t be watching.

“The biggest thing for her is it scares her,” Abdullah said with a laugh. “She’s afraid I’ll get hurt.”

Abdullah said she’s still attempting to grasp what the ruling could mean for other Muslim women in weightlifting and possibly other sports.

“The fact that it got considered, I think that was big, that I even had a chance to have a presentation be heard. I thought that was great, no matter what the decision.”

Born in Kansas, Abdullah was raised in Okeechobee, Fla. Her mother, Ghazala, said Kulsoom always was small but athletic.

“When she was like 4 years old she was standing on her head and doing things like that,” said Ghazala Abdullah, who along with her late husband came to the United States from Pakistan.

Said Kulsoom: “I wasn’t really into the dolls, I guess. We used to like throw them in the air and let them land, and my mom stopped buying them for me. I used to be into climbing the trees. My mom stopped having me wear dresses because I would skin my knees and tear the dresses. So I would wear jeans and pants.”

Now Abdullah’s athletic pursuits are making international headlines.

link to the article: http://bit.ly/oleqes

Some pictures in the article:

In this photo made Monday, July 11, 2011, Kulsoom Abdullah is shown between lifts during a training session at Crossfit gym in Atlanta, Ga. Abdullah’s Ph.D. from Georgia Tech and black belt in taekwondo are proof she doesn’t back away from challenges.  Abdullah on Friday will become the first woman to compete in the national weightlifting championships while wearing clothing that covers her legs, arms and head, in keeping with her Muslim faith.  (AP Photo/Joey Ivansco) Photo: Joey Ivansco / AL In this photo made Monday, July 11, 2011, Kulsoom Abdullah takes a moment during training at Crossfit gym in Atlanta, Ga. Abdullah’s Ph.D. from Georgia Tech and black belt in taekwondo are proof she doesn’t back away from challenges.  Abdullah on Friday will become the first woman to compete in the national weightlifting championships while wearing clothing that covers her legs, arms and head, in keeping with her Muslim faith.  (AP Photo/Joey Ivansco) Photo: Joey Ivansco / AL they caught me napping 😛

In this photo made Monday, July 11, 2011, Kulsoom Abdullah, left, trains at Crossfit gym in Atlanta, Ga. Abdullah’s Ph.D. from Georgia Tech and black belt in taekwondo are proof she doesn’t back away from challenges.  Abdullah on Friday will become the first woman to compete in the national weightlifting championships while wearing clothing that covers her legs, arms and head, in keeping with her Muslim faith.  (AP Photo/Joey Ivansco) Photo: Joey Ivansco / AL

In this photo made Monday, July 11, 2011, Kulsoom Abdullah takes a break from training at Crossfit gym in Atlanta, Ga. Abdullah’s Ph.D. from Georgia Tech and black belt in taekwondo are proof she doesn’t back away from challenges.  Abdullah on Friday will become the first woman to compete in the national weightlifting championships while wearing clothing that covers her legs, arms and head, in keeping with her Muslim faith.  (AP Photo/Joey Ivansco) Photo: Joey Ivansco / ALCaptain America likes to make jokes too