Tina Rahimi stepped into the ring as the first Muslim woman to box for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and stepped out a landmark medallist after a bravura, trailblazing performance.
Outpointing England’s home hope Sameenah Toussaint 5-0 in their featherweight quarter-final on Thursday, the pioneering Sydneysider demonstrated she’s not just a striking role model but one hell of a fighter too.
Fighting with a headguard over her hijab while in full make-up, Rahimi silenced the partisan crowd by pouring forward and bullying her accomplished opponent for nine roughhouse minutes, winning every round convincingly.
“I guess I know that now that I’m a role model and an inspiration to especially the Muslim females out there,” said Rahimi.
“I’m showing them that you can do anything in the hijab to follow your dreams.”
The 26-year-old from Bass Hill only took up the sport for fitness four years ago while working as a make-up artist. She’s come a long way fast.
Racked with nerves before the fight after confessing to making countless trips to the bathroom, the anxiety didn’t show as she was physically so imposing that Toussaint lost her balance and tumbled over twice as Rahimi made it a close-quarters rumble.
“I’m happy right now to be guaranteed a medal, but not satisfied. I came here for the gold and I’m going to do everything in there to get that gold,” she said, looking forward to Saturday’s semi-final against Elizabeth Oshoba.
Earlier, heavyweight Eddie Coumi also ensured there will be five Australian boxers going home with medals – and he almost didn’t have to throw a punch in the whole Games to collect it.
His quarter-final with Anguilla’s Japheth Olton was in danger of being called off because the Caribbean boxer was sporting a red gumshield.
A potential walkover would have left Coumi making the semis and earning a guaranteed bronze without having had a single fight in Birmingham.
“I wouldn’t have taken it,” reckoned Coumi. “I didn’t want it like that – I wanted to fight for it.”
He got his wish and then made short work of Olton, dominating with his ramrod jab before the referee stopped the fight after seeing Coumi unleash a wince-inducing body shot.
The drama had begun when the referee pointed out Olton’s red mouthguard to officials and a debate ensued over whether he’d be allowed to fight.
“If the mouthguard’s red, it can mask the blood and the ref can’t see it. I thought they were going to call it off,” explained Coumi.
“But they let it go and let him fight and I was happy about that because at least I could get a fight under my belt at last.”
The other Aussie in action, Alex Winwood, felt “robbed inside” after a controversial knock-out defeat.
Winwood, seeking revenge for an Olympic defeat by rangy Zambian Patrick Chinyemba, was floored by a sharp right cross in the second round of his flyweight quarter-final.
Bouncing quickly back to his feet ready to resume a fight he’d largely dominated in the opening round, the Perth-based fighter was left open-mouthed in astonishment when referee Maria Rizzardo called a halt to the contest.
“I feel just a little bit robbed of an opportunity to prove myself. I felt I was fine (after the knock down), the call (from the referee) was a bit quick.”
The other three Aussies in Saturday’s semis will be Kaye Scott (light-middleweight), Caitlin Parker (middleweight) and Callum Peters (middleweight).