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It was a media crowd fit for LeBron James, but instead it was for a 16-year-old Saudi Arabian judoka who lost her first round fight in less than 2 minutes.

More than 200 reporters crushed in to get a glimpse of Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and her modified hijab which caused so much controversy at the London Olympics. Have you ever seen a crowd like this?, one volunteer was asked as dozens of reporters streamed by her. "No. Nothing like this," she said.

Young Shahrkhani didn't stop to talk to reporters, leaving that to Dr. Hari Kamal Najm, head of the Saudi Judo federation, who stood far back to avoid being crushed.

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Shahrkhani looked relived afterward as she walked out with her brother, who towered over just about everyone at the ExCel centre. She gave a wide smile and laughed, clearly glad the whole experience was over.

While she didn't stop to speak to the waiting throng of reporters, she did offer a few comments to the Olympic broadcasting service. She said she was scared "a lot" because of the attention and jammed packed ExCel centre audience. She also gave a small glimpse into her background, "I come from a family where judo is practised by all members. My father is a judoka himself and a referee and taught me how to play."

The audience at ExCel gave Shahrkhani a loud roar when she was introduced by the announcer who noted that she was making history.

It all last about an hour and then the crush of media was gone, leaving a handful of reporters grouped around a few athletes who had also just finished competing.

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More


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