ATHENS -- Robina Muqimyar wore a T-shirt and long green track pants for the biggest race of her life.
Approaching the 100-meter starting line, she waved and smiled when introduced to the cheering crowd. After a few moments, the gun went off and she ran as hard as she could, finishing in 14.14 seconds, the second-slowest time of 63 competitors.
Muqimyar raised her arms in triumph. It was her time to celebrate.
Just four years ago, the thought of Muqimyar running seemed laughable in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. But yesterday, she was joined on the 100-meter world stage by women from several other Islamic countries, all making strides toward the universal acceptance of female athletes.
"I hope I can open the way for the Afghan women," the 18-year-old Muqimyar said through a translator. "And this was the first, I am very happy for that."
None of the women had blazing times. It was their presence that mattered.
Danah Al Nasrallah of Kuwait, a 16-year-old who wears braces, stands 4 feet 11 inches and weighs 99 pounds, became the first woman to represent her conservative Muslim country. She finished in 13.92, third to last overall.
Of course, that was a national record.
Rakia Al Gassra of Bahrain, competing in a head scarf, long sleeves and long track pants, was fifth in her heat in 11.49. Her time almost got her into the quarterfinals -- 11.43 was the cutoff mark.
Alla Jassim of Iraq, also 18, finished last in her heat but 52d overall in 12.70. She is the only woman in the Iraqi delegation.
"This is a great honor for me to be here," said Jassim, who lives in Baghdad with her mother and three brothers. "I feel I am here representing all the Iraqi people, not just the women."
Muqimyar and judo competitor Friba Razayee are the first women to represent Afghanistan at the Olympics. Afghanistan was banned in 1999 on the grounds that sports could no longer function under the hardline Taliban regime, which was severely oppressive toward women.
Drug woes plague Greeks
Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis, a bronze medalist at the Athens Games, tested positive for drugs in an initial sample -- another drug-related scandal for the host nation.
The International Olympic Committee told Greek officials yesterday that an athlete had tested positive. Sampanis's testosterone levels reportedly were abnormally high.
One US duo makes finals
The men's double of Henry Nuzum and Aquil Abdullah will be the only US entry in this morning's first set of Olympic rowing finals at Schinias. Nuzum and Abdullah, who qualified by dead-heating with Norway's Nils-Torolv Simonsen and Morten Adamsen in Wednesday's semis, are the first American finalists in the event since Brad Lewis and Paul Enquist won gold in 1984 and the first in a non-boycotted Games since Bill Maher and John Nunn in 1968. Tomorrow, the men's and women's eights are both favored for gold after setting world bests in last weekend's heats. The men, who haven't made the podium since coach Mike Teti rowed in 1988, haven't won since the Vesper crew did it in 1964. The women last managed it in 1984. Also in the finals, with a decent chance of winning the first US medal in the event, is the women's quad, which includes three New Englanders in Danika Holbrook (Durham, N.H.), Hilary Gehman (Wolfeboro, N.H.) and Michelle Guerette (Bristol, Conn.) . . . NBC's Thursday night Olympics coverage produced a 20.2 local rating on Channel 7 and 35 audience share, the best local numbers of the Games so far. Thursday's ratings, an improvement from Wednesday's 17 rating/29 share, were helped by the featured event (women's gymnastics) and the absence of a competing Red Sox game for the first time since Sunday night.
Globe staffers John Powers in Athens and Bill Griffith in Boston contributed to this report.