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The Chronicle's top 10 of 2016: Former Duke fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad makes history by wearing hijab at Olympics

<p>Former Duke fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history at the Olympics in August.&nbsp;</p>

Former Duke fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history at the Olympics in August. 

With the end of 2016 quickly approaching, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest sports stories of the year. Each day, The Blue Zone will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year in Blue Devil athletics.

Coming in at No. 3 on our list: Former Duke fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad debuts at the Olympics as the first American female to compete while wearing a hijab.

During her four-year career in Durham, Ibtihaj Muhammad made her mark as a three-time All-American for the Blue Devils.

But it was in Rio de Janeiro this summer when she finally emerged on a big-time international stage.

The Maplewood, N.J., native competed for the United States' fencing team at the 2016 Summer Olympics as one of three saber fighters. She fell in the second round of the individual competition, but helped the American team earn a bronze medal with a 45-30 victory against Italy.

Muhammad drew significant social media attention during the Games, becoming the first Muslim-American female to earn an Olympic medal. After losing early in the solo portion of the competition, the 31-year-old fencer began focusing on the team competition along with her three teammates.

The American side knocked off Poland in the quarterfinals, 45-43, before a matchup with Russia. The Russians took a large lead before Muhammad turned the match around with seven straight points and 10 total touches to turn a 30-25 Russia lead into a one-point American advantage at 35-34.

Although the second-ranked United States team could not hold its lead, losing to the eventual gold medalists 45-42, Muhammad and the Americans dominated their bronze-medal match against Italy to give the former Blue Devil her first Olympic medal.

“I wouldn’t trade this medal for anything in the world, not even an individual medal," Muhammad said of earning the bronze medal. "It means a lot. I know that, as a squad, we’ve worked really hard and I’m happy that each of us gets to leave this experience with some hardware.”

The 2016 Games may have been Muhammad's last shot at an Olympic medal as she was one of the two older members on the American saber team. 

However, the world's No. 8 female saber is expected to compete for the United States at the World Cup next month in New York.

READ MORE on Muhammad's landmark Olympic appearance

What to watch for: Duke's 12 2016 Olympians ready for competition

Olympics update: Ibtihaj Muhammad wins bronze medal

A look at the rest of our Top 10 countdown to date:

10. Duke rowing makes first-ever NCAA championship

9. Duke football rallies to stun Notre Dame as injuries mount

8. Grayson Allen returns for junior season but earns suspension for 3 tripping incidents

7. Duke baseball makes NCAA tournament for the first time since 1961

6. Landmark wins against North Carolina in 4 sports

5. Mike Krzyzewski wins third Olympic gold medal

4. Duke women's basketball moves past departures of Stevens and Salvadores, internal investigation

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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