Zahra Lari, is a competitive figure skater from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, who dreams of making it to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea as the first ever hijabi figure skater. She has represented her country in international competitions in places like Slovakia, Hungary, and Italy.
When asked about the significance of the hijab when competing:
“The hijab is part of who I am, so to me, whether in school, at the gym, on ice or just hanging with friends, I am always wearing it. When I am not wearing it, I feel something is missing . In the skating community, I’m different because I am covered and come from a desert country, but that makes me feel unique, special and empowered.”
When asked if she was nervous or anxious competing in a scarf:
“Never. When I started skating I’d get deductions for being covered. The judges had never seen covered skaters before but I am now proud to say that today, hijabi women can skate free of fear. No matter what the outcome, I want the world to know that Emirati athletes are strong, confident women who know what we want and we work very hard to accomplish our goals.”
Her feelings when the active-wear giant Nike broke the news of making a scarf for her:
“Everyone including myself was so surprised and happy to see such a large company like Nike do something like this to cater specifically to Muslim athletes. It’s like a dream that we [hijabi athletes] never really thought it would happen.”
“The positivity has overwhelmed me in the best way possible. My fans, family, friends and everyone around me were extremely excited to see the change. I think the wave of inspiration transcended from the hijabi community to the wider Arab and Muslim communities, which is so amazing! I could see that many Arab and Muslim girls, even if they weren’t necessary covered, felt empowered and inspired.”
When she will know if she has made it to the Olympics?
“I am now the first athlete to represent the UAE nationally. This year I made it to the Olympic qualifications for the first time, it was a great experience and I learnt so much and I had received an immense level of support and love from the international community although I didn’t qualify. My ultimate goal is to make it to the Olympics, so I am back on training for the next qualifications in four years.”
What it means to represent her country:
“When you are motivated, driven and have the support of your family and country, you are unstoppable. I am extremely grateful and take great pride in the fact that I am the first Emirati figure skater in the world. For me, that’s enough.”