Middle Eastern pioneers are already breaking records in the 2012 London Olympics. Saudi Arabian women are competing for the first time, Tunisia is going for the gold in basketball, the UAE is making its debut, and much more. See action shots of some of the region’s Olympic trailblazers.
2- Palestinian track and field competitor Bahaa al-Farra, 20, is Gaza’s only participant in the Olympic Games this year and will compete in the 400m event. One of his trainers, Majad abu Maraheel, was the first Palestinian ever to compete in the Olympics in 1996.
3- Moroccan lightweight Mahjoub Oubtil is the first female boxer to compete for the country in the Olympics. Along with US athlete Queen Underwood, Oubtil was granted a wildcard to make up the 12-strong lightweight division at this years Games.
4- Sarah Attar is the first-ever female runner to compete for Saudi Arabia, which is sending its first delegation of women to the 2012 Games. Attar, 19, was born and raised in California and competes for Pepperdine University, where she studies art. Attar caused a bit of a stir after her family asked Pepperdine to remove photos of her training in a tank top and shorts from their website.
5- The United Arab Emirates football team made it to the Olympics for the first time this year. The country exempted its Olympic athletes from fasting for Ramadan, so its men’s football team will only have one thing on their minds: bringing home the gold.
6- Zahra Dehghan Abnavi will be competing this year for Iran in the women’s recurve bow category. Dehghan, 24, won the last Olympic slot for London after defeating a Slovene rival. Iran sent male and female archers to the 2008 games but has never won a medal in the sport.
7- In 2011, the Tunisian men’s basketball team won its first-ever African title in Antananarivo, qualifying for their first Olympic Games. Team Tunisia will play Team USA in the preliminary round on July 31.
8- Tvine Moumjoghlian (@tvine7), the first Lebanese Olympic table-tennis competitor since the 1996 Games in Atlanta, is hoping to bring home the gold this year. The daughter of former champion Rafi Moumjoghlian, the younger Moumjoghlian, 23, hired a Chinese coach to help her compete.
9- For Tunisia, which first participated in the Games in 300 BC, Wajdi Bouallegue may hold the best chance at Olympic gold. The gymnast, who was recently profiled by CNN about his participation in the 2011 revolution and photographed performing athletic stunts in the former presidential home, has won the African title for floor exercises six times since 2000.