In spite of her swift defeat at the hands of Puerto Rican judoka Melissa Mojica, Shaherkhani gained media notoriety because of the controversy over her hijab, the religiously-mandated veil for Muslim women, which Olympic organizers said might hinder and even harm her on the mat. She was only able to compete after a compromise between Olympic organizers, the International Judo Federation and Saudi officials that cleared the way for her to wear a modified hijab: a tight-fitting black cap, signed by a Dutch designer. ''Yes, I was very scared. I'm also happy and proud, because this is the beginning of a new era. I hope this will bring more participation, in other sports as well,'' the young judoka made known in a communique issued after her minders whisked her into the athletes' area, which is off limits to reporters.
For her part, Mojica's comment was succinct: ''Hijab or no hijab makes no difference to me. All I'm thinking about is my next opponent.'' (ANSAMed).