Olympic pioneer Ibtihaj Muhammad to hang up sabre

America's hijab-wearing fencing bronze medallist is 'content' with her sporting and cultural impact.

Ibtihaj Muhammad has decided to 'unofficially' end her fencing career.

“I feel really content with my career and where I am right now in my life," the American told NBC Sports.

"You know, fencing is not a big part of it anymore, but it’s always been my intention to transcend sport in a way that reaches people not just in the fencing world but outside of it. I think I’ve been able to best do that, not only representing my sport but representing myself.”

The 33-year-old revealed she made the decision after completing her first hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in August, and also after speaking with recent skiing retiree Lindsey Vonn and former football players Abby Wambach and Julie Foudy.

A symbol against intolerance

Muhammad was a late bloomer in fencing.

She took up the sport at the age of 17 which is late by Olympic standards, and only competed internationally for the first time when she was 23.

However the New Jersey native made up for lost time, helping to secure U.S.A's team bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships in Catania.

She went on to secure a further gold and four bronze team medals at the World Champs, as well as clinching team bronze at Rio 2016.

But perhaps the New Jersey native will be best remembered for her cultural impact off the piste, and on sport as a whole.

She was the first Muslim-American athlete to earn an Olympic medal, and also the woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States at the Olympics.

“I’m hoping just my presence on Team USA changes perceptions people have about the Muslim community," she told Yahoo Sports in 2016.

After her winning bronze at Rio 2016, she became a symbol against intolerance in America for many.

From fencing to fashion and Barbie!

Given the headlines devoted to Muhammad's decisions regarding her sporting attire, it makes sense that she decided to launch her own clothing company.

She was also named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People and was invited to meet former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Away from fencing, she served on the U.S. Department of State's Empowering Women and girls Through Sport Initiative.

A slightly less traditional, but no less significant recognition of her positive impact and achievement came from Barbie.

In November 2018, an Ibtihaj Muhammad doll was created as part of the company's new 'Role Models' range, alongside fellow Olympic medallists Ester Ledecka (skiing and snowboarding), Chloe Kim (snowboarding) and Nicola Adams (boxing).

Time to move on

Muhammad said she knew it was time to move on as she felt disconnected from the sport. She just hopes her life and story are being viewed as "more than fencing".

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