Crowd roars for first Saudi woman in Olympics

Crowd roars for first Saudi woman in Olympics
Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar competes in a women's 800-meter heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
LONDON -- Sarah Attar finished more than 40 seconds behind the lead pack in her women's 800-meter heat - and she got the loudest ovation of anyone.

Attar became the first Saudi woman to compete in Olympic track and field, wearing a headscarf and finishing with the second-slowest time of any of the 40 women who took the track Wednesday.

"This is such a huge honor and an amazing experience, just to be representing the women," Attar said. "Just having so much support in the stadium, I know this can make a huge difference."

Attar smiled broadly and waved at the crowd as her name was announced. Three minutes later, wearing a white headscarf, green long-sleeve shirt and black leggings despite the 66-degree temperature, she drew a roar of approval from the crowd of about 80,000 as she strode Down the home stretch.

Her time of 2 minutes, 44.95 seconds was well behind Janeth Jepkosgei's heat-winning 2:01.04. Only Merve Aydin of Turkey was slower (3 minutes, 24.35 seconds), and she ran much of the race on a painfully sore right foot.

Attar's time, though, meant little. She left her mark on the London Games.

"When I was running and hearing the people, it was like this crazy roar," said Attar, a student at Pepperdine with dual Saudi and U.S. citizenship. "Just being in the Olympic Stadium, what a crazy, amazing experience. ... Whatever this turns into, I know that just seeing that kind of support is something really good."