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"I know that I am not the fastest," wrote Sarah Attar of Saudi Arabia, "but this is so much bigger than that."
Escondido High School graduate Sarah Attar became the first Saudi woman to compete in Olympic track and field, wearing a headscarf and finishing last in her 800-meter heat Wednesday.
Attar, 19, smiled broadly and waved at the crowd as her name was announced.
Three minutes later, wearing a white headscarf, green long sleeve shirt and black leggings despite the 66-degree temperature, she drew a huge roar of approval from the crowd of about 80,000 as she strode down the home stretch.
"I know that I am not the fastest," she wrote on her Facebook page after the race, "but this is so much bigger than that."
Her time of 2 minutes, 44.95 seconds was well behind Janeth Jepkosgei's heat-winning 2:01.04, but that didn't matter. She left her mark on the London Games.
"It is such a huge honor to be able to represent Saudi Arabia as one of the first women to compete in the Olympics," Attar wrote. "I truly hope that this can make a difference to get women more opportunity to be involved in sports and for that I am so inspired that I can be part of that change."
Attar graduated from Escondido High School in 2010 and now studies art Pepperdine. With her dual Saudi and U.S. citizenship, she is one of the first two Saudi women ever selected for the Olympics.
She and fellow Saudi Olympian Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani were the first to represent the country.
Just months before the London Games began, Saudi Olympic Committee President Prince Nawaf was quoted as saying he did "not approve" of sending women to the games. In July, he changed his stance. Saudi Arabia was the last country in the world to send women to the Olympics.
"We have been chosen to attend," she wrote, "and hopefully this will allow women of Saudi Arabia to better themselves in athletics and have even more representatives in future Olympics."