London, England (Sports Network) - It was a long road to the London Games for Saudi judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani, and the experience didn't last long, but it was still history in the making.
Shaherkani became the first female athlete from Saudi Arabia to compete in the Olympics on Friday, losing her opening match against Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica by ippon just 82 seconds into their plus-78 kilogram bout.
"I'm excited and proud to be representing my country, unfortunately I lost but hopefully I'll do better next time. Hopefully I'll achieve a medal next time," Shaherkani said. "I am very excited and it was the opportunity of a lifetime, certainly the Saudi Arabia judo federation are delighted that I've been able to come here. Hopefully this will be the start of bigger participation for other sports also."
The 16-year-old was making her major international event debut after earning a special invitation from the IOC. She was nearly denied a chance to even contend after the president of the International Judo Federation had said that she must fight without a hijab, a traditional veil worn by Muslim women to cover their hair.
However, the IJF and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee eventually reached an agreement that balanced the safety and cultural concerns, a tight-fitting black cap that Shaherkani wore on Friday.
Turns out it was more of the environment than the headwear that impacted Shaherkani.
"I was scared a lot, because of all the crowd around and lost, because this is the first time," she said.
Shaherkani is one of two Saudi females set to participate in the London 2012 Games. The other is Sarah Attar, who is slated to run in the women's track and field 800-meter.
08/03 06:54:27 ET