HOUSTON (AP) - Sarah Attar saw her run in the Houston Marathon as another step toward Tokyo.
The 25-year-old Attar, who holds dual citizenship, was one of the first two women to compete in the Olympics under the Saudi Arabian flag when she went to the 2012 Summer Games in London.
She got there, along with judo contestant Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani, through a special invitation by the International Olympic Committee. Attar also was invited and went to the 2016 Rio Games.
When the 2020 Games in Tokyo arrive, Attar wants to return - entirely on her own.
“That would be the first time that a Saudi woman qualifies for the Olympics,” said Attar, also a United States citizen. “So not only are we participating, but we are now qualifying also. So it’s a big goal right now.”
Following the Rio de Janeiro competition, Attar and her coach began planning the next four years to get to Tokyo. One of the races on that path was the half-marathon in Houston on Sunday.
“Running the half is kind of a recon mission,” Attar said about her debut race in Houston. “Get to know the race, the organizers, the course, the travel routine and get a routine down here to eventually come for the standard.”
Attar finished 39th in her division with a time of 1 hour, 26 minutes, 47 seconds, breaking her personal record by almost five minutes.
Surpassing her best time also meant topping the Saudi Arabian half-marathon national mark of 1:31:41, which she set in San Diego in 2015.
“It’s pretty cool that me going after my personal best is also going after the Saudi national record,” Attar said. “It’s really encouraging to make such strides in my time also. It gives me a lot of confidence moving forward in the next two years leading up to Tokyo.”
Since her first Olympic appearance, Attar has dedicated time to not only training to get herself back, but also grow the sport in Saudi Arabia, where running clubs have been established since 2012.
Attar travels back one or two times a year. During those trips, she visits with her father’s family and spends time hosting events and speaking to schoolchildren.
“I started the talk asking, ‘Who here would like to compete in the Olympics one day?’” Attar said. “Literally the whole room of girls raised their hands and there was so much enthusiasm.”
“I can tell that there’s this generation of younger girls who are growing up with competing in the Olympics as a possibility. Whereas before that wasn’t something that would register as an option,” she said.
In the 2016 Olympics, Attar was among four women representing Saudi Arabia. The Pepperdine University graduate hopes the numbers will continue to double each and every Olympic games.
“It shows there’s so much power in what we do,” Attar said. “It’s really cool that doing something that I love has been able to make a difference.”
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.