Muslim Female Weightlifter Overcomes Adversity

Kulsoom Abdullah, an athlete from Pakistan, was the first woman to compete for her country at the World Championships in 2011. In 2010, Abdullah was unable to participate at the Nation Weightlifting Championship because she followed the rules of her religion in the wearing of her hijab. Another concern for judges was that the long sleeves that she has to wear to cover her arms as part of her beliefs would obstruct the judges from seeing weather or not her form was correct. The International Weight Lifting Federation requires athletes competing to wear a singlet, a garment too revealing, which goes against the Muslim faith.

Pakistani athlete, Kulsoom Abdullah, training in Atlanta, United States at the school gym where she received her PhD in engineering (Photo:

After being denied from competing, she confronted USA Weightlifting about the discrimination of Muslim women and their ability to take part in this male dominated sport. This issue was reviewed and, the following year, she was able to compete in the National Weightlifting Championships in 2011.

Kulsoom Abdullah not only has faced adversity for being a female athlete in a male dominated sport, but she also broke boundaries and created changes in the rules so that women like her could participate and compete in sports that they want to. She changed society’s views in sport and has definitely inspired many young athletes to follow in her footsteps. She created opportunities for others to play no matter what their race or cultural norms are.

Grace Gormley

Featured image: Kulsoom Abdullah, Muslim athlete, competing at the USA National Weight lifting Championships in 2011. (Photo:

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