Book about athlete’s fencing career inspires faith, confidence
Published: Jul 19, 2023 10:09 PM
Editor's Note:

"Read ten thousand books, and your pen will be guided as if by the gods" is an ancient Chinese idiom that can be seen in students' textbooks. China's Ministry of Education has published an action plan to further promote reading among students across the nation. With new and diverse book recommendations, the reading scene is expected to be revived not only at schools, but also across society. To contribute to this endeavor, the Global Times launched "My Reading Life" essay contest for middle school students.

Please pick up a pen and share your stories with us at

Participants will be rewarded once the article has been selected.



Before encountering the book Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream, written by women fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, I always felt that my reading life was missing something.  

As soon as I picked up this book, I was completely engrossed by it, reading continuously day and night. I felt a strong connection with it as a reader. Muhammad's fencing experience and my discovery of this book made me curious about other real-life stories in autobiographies and biographies. 

I was so obsessed with the book that my daydreams were all about fencing. The book formed a part of my reading life, and I started to see things differently. When the Olympics happened, the races and competitions seemed to be so easy and smooth. The competitors seemed like they hardly did any training at all. However, through this book I realized how much effort all the competitors had put in. They went through injuries, taunting and hard training, just for a few minutes of the most valuable competition ever. It made me reflect on how many challenges there are behind the scenes. 

It was a touching and motivating story of Muhammad's obstacles. Fencing allowed Muhammad to dress appropriately within her Muslim faith. Muhammad attended Columbia High School and fought with an epee. When the team graduated to sabres, her coach encouraged a reluctant Muhammad to switch over. Eventually, as Muhammad tried the sabre, it turned out that she did much better. I used to do epee, until last year, when I switched to sabre. It was a new experience, and I had an arduous time trying to switch between these two sword types, especially because many of the sabre fencers were professional or hard to beat. The rules were complex, and it required agility as well as hand-eye coordination, all of which I lacked. However, reading this story gave me a burst of energy, as not only did Muhammad face the challenge of swapping sword types, she also had to encounter the mocking and teasing of people laughing at her hijab which she wore due to her Muslim faith. Though Muhammad was disappointed, she showed confidence in being the first woman to wear a hijab when competing in the Olympics for the US. She became the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics. 

Muhammad's passion to pursue fencing has motivated young girls and women around the world to chase after their dreams. "Don't carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them." This is a quote from her that tells us all to not bow our heads down when we get attacked by hurtful words. 

The author is a student at the Dulwich College Beijing