By Adam Shergold
PUBLISHED: 11:25 EST, 3 August 2012 | UPDATED: 17:04 EST, 3 August 2012 * Comments (331) * Share * * * *
For most athletes at the London Olympics, their battle starts when they take their place on the starting blocks.
But for Wojdan Shaherkani and Tahmina Kohistani, just taking part in London felt like a gold medal victory.
To reach the Games, they have had to overcome political, social, religious and sporting obstacles.
The Saudi judoka Wojdan Shaherkani, who was embroiled in a political and religious row in her home country before being allowed to compete
The 100m sprinter Tahmina Kohstani of Afghanistan runs in a hijab and long clothing to conform to Islamic modesty laws
Judoka Shaherkani Olympics lasted just over a minute this morning, but the fact she made it to her bout with Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica meant it was a revolutionary moment for the women of Saudi Arabia.
The country's ultra-conservative clergy tried to destroy her ambitions to be Saudi's first female Olympian, before an argument about the type of headscarf she should wear jeopardized her place at the eleventh hour.
And though Afghanistan's Kohistani trailed in last in the 100 meters - in a time of 14.42 seconds - the warm appreciation of the London crowd who recognized her historic feat must have been the greatest of feelings.
She has suffered months of harassment from men who don't believe women should be permitted to play sport. More... * Jessica Ennis has Olympic Stadium fans on their feet as she leads after the high jump in bid for heptathlon gold * Bronze for British judo star Karina Bryant who two months ago was asking strangers for cash so she could buy a car to get to training * Ladies of the lake: Team GB scores another gold in the double sculls rowing - and yet again it's the women who bring Britain glory
Both have made a strong statement to the people of their respective countries and the world with their determination to take part and their dignity.
As did Noor Hussain Al-Malki, only the fourth female athlete from Qatar to enter the Olympics, who lasted just a dozen strides before pulling up injured in her 100m heat.
The record books will show DNF - Did Not Finish - but they were significant strides.
Shinoona Salah Al-Habsi of Oman and Sulaiman Fatima Dahman from Yemen are unlikely to trouble the favorites for gold, but as they sprinted down the track in the Olympic Stadium wearing colorful hijabs there was a sense of progress.
The Olympics ended in disappointment for Noor Hussain Al-Malki of Qatar, who pulled up shortly after the start of her 100m heat
Shinoona Salah al-Habsi (Centre) of Oman certainly stood out on the starting blocks with her hijab and top in national colors
Shaherkani, just 16, comes from Saudi Arabia, a country of ultra-Conservatism where women are banned from driving and cannot leave the house without a male chaperone, let alone compete in the biggest sporting event in the world in front of millions around the world.
She had been rocked by the…