Another Olympian has joined our ranks in Mammoth—this one works at a coffee shop
Sarah Attar is a two-time Olympian and was one of the first women to represent Saudi Arabia in the Olympics, at the 2012 London Summer Games. She’s also a photographer and artist, and a barista at Stellar Brew.
In late 2011, Sarah Attar was a self-described “totally average college sophomore” studying art at Pepperdine University and competing as a walk-on for the track team. Attar was born in California and grew up in San Diego. Her mother is American and her father is Saudi Arabian.
During the winter and spring of 2011-2012, The International Olympic Committee put a lot of pressure on Saudi Arabia to allow female athletes to compete in the Olympics. At that time, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei were the only three countries in the world who had never sent female athletes to the Olympics. All three countries sent women to the Olympics that year.
“My whole dad’s side of the family lives in Saudi Arabia,” said Attar, who grew up visiting relatives abroad. At the time, it was illegal in Saudi Arabia for women and girls to participate in sports in public school. “Somehow, and I’m still not sure how, word got around that I ran more than most women in Saudi Arabia at the time,” said Attar, who used to run dressed as a boy or in full Abaya (a robe-like dress worn by some women in parts of the Muslim world), accompanied by her father, when she visited her family.
In February 2012, Attar got a letter, out of the blue, from the International Olympic Committee, inviting her to compete on behalf of Saudi Arabia in July. “I was not running at an Olympic level, or even qualified to run professionally,” said Attar. “You can imagine the surreal nature of it all… and it was all so rushed that I didn’t have time to realize what I was getting myself into, but I decided to do it.”
With that, Attar, normally a distance runner, had six weeks to train for the 800 meter, an event she vaguely remembers having run once or twice in high school. At 19, she was set to compete, fully covered, from head to toe, against athletes who had been training for their event for years. She finished that race a distant last, to a standing ovation from 80,000 spectators at London’s Olympic Stadium. “It was something I had never anticipated or planned for and it ended up changing the course of my life,” said Attar of that experience.