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Tue Aug 6, 2019, 11:55 PM

'I am really shy': introducing Phoenix, the world's first hijab-wearing champion wrestler

Nor Diana can remember vividly the first time she stepped out to make her wrestling debut. Outside the ropes she had always been a quiet and studious hijab-wearing Malaysian woman, but here in the ring, dressed in black leather embossed with flames and as the crowd roared, she suddenly felt like a fire burst from inside her: here she was Phoenix.

Nor, who last month won Malaysia’s biggest wrestling tournament – defeating four men for the title – cuts an unlikely figure for a pro wrestler. A 19-year-old who is just 152cm (5ft) tall and weighs 43kg (94lbs), she speaks softly as she sits in her training centre in the town of Puchong, close to Kuala Lumpur, dressed in her hijab, wide glasses and floral baju kurung, traditional Malaysian dress.


Indeed, over the past four years Phoenix has steadily grown to be one of the biggest names in Malaysian pro-wrestling, defying stigmas and the expectations often placed on Muslim women in Malaysian society and bringing in a whole new female crowd to the male-dominated sport. “The response has been amazing,” says Nor. “Last year, we had all-female wrestling tryouts and no one turned up. But this week we had tryouts and three hijabi girls came to the training.”


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