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.
Judoka Shaherkani's 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 jeopardised her place at the eleventh hour. And though Afghanistan's Kohistani trailed in last in the 100 metres - in a time of 14.42 seconds - the warm appreciation of the London crowd who recognised 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.
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 favourites for gold, but as they sprinted down the track in the Olympic Stadium wearing colourful hijabs there was a sense of progress.
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 barbs of the country's clergy, who strongly discourage female participation in sport in any form and labelled her the 'Prostitute of the Olympics.'Her family have been bombarded with racial abuse, according to reports, with many trying to claim Shaherkani did not represent their country.
There was then a row which threatened to end her chances once and for all. Her national Olympic Committee said she could only compete if she was wearing a hijab - a hair covering worn by many Muslim women. But judo's governing body was worried that a head covering could be dangerous in the grapples and tumbles of the sport.
Kohistani was warmly received by the crowd at the Olympics Stadium as she lined up for her heat this morning
The 100m sprinter Tahmina Kohstani of Afghanistan runs in a hijab and long clothing to conform with Islamic modesty laws
Kohistani looks at the scoreboard after her 100m heat, though her time of 14.42 seconds meant she finished last in the standings
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 colours
Shaherkani, Saudi Arabia's first ever female athlete, squares up to Puerto Rican Melissa Mojica in their first round bout, which lasted just over a minute