As competition begins in Rio, Brazil, here are 10 inspirational female athletes to follow during the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee hopes that Rio will set a new record for female athletes’ participation in the Summer Games. Women made up 44% of total competitors at London 2012.
Why watch: Guerioua is the first Algerian women to compete in paralympic powerlifting since Athens 2004. Guerioua has a bronze medal from the 2015 African Games.
Follow Guerioua on the Paralympic website.
Canadian women’s rugby sevens team
Why watch: Canada does not have a strong rugby background but the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team isfavoured to make the semifinals in one of the Olympics’ newest sports.
Follow the Canadian women on Twitter @RugbyCanada.
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo, competing on the Refugee Olympic Athlete Team
Follow Mabika on Twitter @TeamRefugees.
Why watch: Zahra Nemati will be the first archer since 1996 to compete at both the Olympic and Paralympic games in the same year and has broken the world record in 4 distances.
Follow Nemati on the Paralympic website.
Country: Saudi Arabia
Why watch: After competing as one of the first Saudi women in the London 2012 800m track event, Sarah Attar will run the Olympic Marathon after a personal best finish of 3:11:27 at the Chicago Marathon last year.
Follow Attar on Twitter @theSarahAttar.
Country: South Africa
Event: 800m track
Why watch: Semenya is the favourite for gold, poised to break a world record that has stood for 33 years. Semenya has famously challenged the International Association of Athletics Federations on sex verification tests and hyperandrogenism, a medical condition that causes an excess of testosterone in the female body.
Follow Semenya on the Olympic website.
Rose Nathike Lokonyen
Country: South Sudan, competing on the Refugee Olympic Team
Event: 800m track
Why watch: A year ago, Nathike Lokonyen had never run in proper running shoes – now, she has a professional coach and is going to the Olympics. She hopes to someday return to South Sudan and organize a race to promote peace.
Follow Nathike Lokonyen on Twitter @TeamRefugees.
Anjelina Nadai Lohalith
Country: South Sudan, competing on the Refugee Olympic Athlete Team
Event: 1,500m track
Why watch: After fleeing South Sudan at the age of 6, Nadai Lohalith has not had any contact with her parents– but has heard they are still alive and hopes that the prize money from international competitions can help her support them.
Follow Nadai Lohalith on Twitter @TeamRefugees.
Country: Syria, competing on the Refugee Olympic Athlete Team
Why watch: Last year, Mardini and her sister pushed a boat full of Syrian refugees from Turkey to the Greek coast. Originally from Damascus, the 18 year old is now training with a club in Berlin and will compete in the 200m freestyle event.
Follow Mardini on Twitter @TeamRefugees.
Country: United States of America
Why watch: Catchings is a WNBA player who has been fined by the League for wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt during a warm up. Catchings continues to use her place in the public eye to draw attention to Black Lives Matter by participating in media blackouts.
Follow Catchings on Twitter @Catchin24.
FACTBOX: Will the Rio Olympics set a new world records for female athletes?, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 3 August 2016.
How many female athletes are competing in the 2016 Olympics?, Bustle, 24 July 2016.