Parkour athlete Sara Mudallal challenges stereotypes in a male dominated sport

9/30/2021 1:19 AM
Parkour athlete Sara Mudallal

As more and more Muslimahs are encouraged to take up sports, Parkour is the latest sport to encourage Muslim women to get fit and exercise.

Los Angeles-based Sara Mudallal is one example of a hijabi athlete taking part. By practising and training consistently, Mudallal hopes to encourage more women to redress the balance in what's known as a "male dominated" activity.

"It's kind of intimidating for women to sometimes come in and hang out and things like that. But now, recently, more women have been showing up, so it's been more comfortable for women to come in and practice," 26-year-old Mudallal says.

"It starts with one and you have to stand up for that, and then you bring more people in."

"I still am like the only person who wears the hijab; of course, we still have a long way to go with that for women to feel confident in themselves," she says. I'm very well-rounded. Like I can play soccer, I can play basketball, I can play football. I can play tennis. Except golf - I don't know how to play golf," she muses.

At the age of twelve, her mother enrolled her in karate classes, where she went on to earn a first and second-degree black belt. Then, at the beginning of 2015, Mudallal decided to start wearing a hijab. It was also around the time when a friend introduced her to Parkour. Because she gained lower body strength and core balance from karate, she says she was well-suited for Parkour.

"My legs were already pretty strong," Mudallal says. "In terms of taking a bad landing, I was safe. I've always loved climbing and jumping on things and didn't really know that was a sport, didn't really know it was a technique."

When she first started out, Mudallal says she was embraced into the Parkour and freerunning scene with open arms.

"I do not feel that people did not want me in the group," she says. "I didn't give them that chance to make me feel that way. It's about personality, it's about how strong you are. If you are shy doing anything because of what you're wearing, you have to check yourself with that, then why are you wearing it, you know?"

In the UK there are an increasing number of organisations encouraging Muslim women to participate in sport, including a running club in Wimbledon, which has received acclaim for bringing together a community of Muslim women to keep fit and in Newham, Muslim Girls Fence (MGF) was formed to help promote fencing for Muslimahs.