Female squash professionals including KSA player “making history” at Saudi tournament

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In addition to the lucrative $165,000 prize fund up for grabs in the Saudi Women's Squash Masters, the players will also be battling it out for points on the PSA World Series Standings — which are currently headed up by Egypt’s El-Welily, pictured. (AP)
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Nicol David, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports and PSA Chairman and Saudi Squash Federation President, Ziad Al-Turki. (Twitter)
Updated 07 January 2018

Female squash professionals including KSA player “making history” at Saudi tournament

LONDON: The Saudi Arabia Squash Federation President says the world’s top female players “are making history” by competing in the first professional women’s squash tournament to ever take place in the Kingdom.
The world’s leading female players are in Riyadh for the first World Series event of 2018 — the Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters — which got underway today and runs until Friday.
The tournament, held at Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh, features 32 international players, including Nada Abo Al-Naja, Saudi’s wildcard player. She plays world No. 3 and No. 2 seed Camille Serme tomorrow.
Following recent initiatives from the General Authority of Sports in Saudi Arabia to increase sporting participation and awareness across the country, the $165,000 tournament will play a crucial role in inspiring a new generation of Saudis to become active within sport.
“Things are changing in Saudi, and they are changing fast,” said Ziad Al-Turk, who is also the Chairman of the PSA, at the official tournament dinner. “Win or lose, you [the players] are making history.”
Eight-time world champion Nicol David tweeted: “Truly honored to be part of this historical moment in Saudi Arabia.”
The tournament was scheduled to take place in November but was postponed due to “logistical challenges.”
“Bringing professional squash back to Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2010 has been an ambition of mine and I am grateful for the support of the Women’s Department of the Saudi General Authority for Sport to see this come to fruition,” said Al-Turk. “Not only is squash one of the healthiest sports it is the perfect sport for the Saudi climate. I’m hoping that this tournament will increase local participation in Saudi Arabia, and I look forward to working with all parties involved throughout the next six months, ensuring continued success for years to come.”
The staging of the tournament comes hot on the heels of the Saudi General Sports Authority approving three football stadiums to allow women to attend Saudi Professional League matches for the first time
“We look forward to growing the female participation of the sport of squash,” said Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports. “It is a dynamic game that involves fast thinking and fast reaction times, skills that are well reflected in the women of Saudi Arabia.”
With no qualifying rounds featured at the tournament, 32 of the world’s top players — comprised of 12 nationalities — go straight into the main draw, with stars such as world champion Raneem El-Welily, world No. 3 Camille Serme, world No. 5 Nouran Gohar and Nicol David joining the battle for the prize purse.
Egypt’s World No.1 and tournament top seed Nour El-Sherbini will get her tournament under way against France’s world No. 30 Coline Aumard and is seeded to meet compatriot and world No. 5 Nouran Gohar — who starts her tournament against Australia’s former world champion Rachael Grinham — in the last four.
The Egyptian two-time world champion is also predicted to face off against world No. 3 Camille Serme in the final should they both play to their seeding. Serme is scheduled to meet eight-time world champion Nicol David in the quarter-finals.
The pair have met 17 times on the PSA World Tour — with the Frenchwoman only winning one of those encounters against the Malaysian icon in the quarter-finals of the recent Hong Kong Open this season. David will start her tournament in Riyadh against Egypt’s World No.31 Mayar Hany.
Meanwhile, newly crowned world champion El Welily — who triumphed over El Sherbini in December to win squash’s biggest tournament — will start her tournament against Belgium’s world No. 27 and Open International de Squash de Nantes runner-up Nele Gilis as she seeks to keep her strong run of form going in her first tournament since lifting the PSA World Championship crown in Manchester.
Other big names in the draw include US Open winner Nour El-Tayeb, who comes up against Hong Kong’s world No. 36 Liu Tsz-Ling in round one of the World Series tournament, and English pair Alison Waters and Sarah-Jane Perry, who take on Egypt’s Heba El-Torky and Hong Kong’s Joey Chan, respectively, in the opening round of the historic event.
In addition to the lucrative $165,000 prize fund up for grabs, the players will also be battling it out for points on the PSA World Series Standings — which are currently headed up by Egypt’s El-Welily — as players aim for a top eight finish, which will guarantee their participation at June’s PSA World Series Finals.

Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Updated 20 August 2019

Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

  • Dalma Malhas ‘honored’ to be part of national team
  • Equestrian star began riding aged four

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star Dalma Malhas is counting down to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by competing in a series of crucial qualifying events.

Malhas, who has been riding since the age of four, told Arab News that she was honored to be part of the Saudi national team after “years of work and dedication.”

Next month she and her fellow showjumpers head to Morocco to take part in a series of qualifying events.

The 10th edition of the Morocco Royal Tour takes place in three cities — Tetouan, Rabat, and Eljadida —  on three consecutive weekends. The top two teams, based on their results, will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Malhas wants to be at the prestigious sporting event in Japan. 

“The work that has been done in the past few years will manifest itself now and I’m enjoying what I’ve been working on ... I believe in destiny and hard work,” she told Arab News. “Anything could happen, but I’m hopeful and trying to focus on peak performance because it is important that, when it comes to the horse and myself, we want to be there, energetic and motivated.”

She was the first female athlete from the Kingdom to compete at an Olympic-level event, riding at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 in Singapore and winning a bronze medal. She participated in the 14-18 age group, becoming only the third Saudi athlete to snag an Olympic medal.

She said it was easy to buy a horse that was already trained and compete with it. But the challenge for her was to get an inexperienced horse and train him from scratch.

“I dedicated time, effort and energy. I had a vision of how he could be and transformed him into a skilled and talented horse, and step-by-step I followed that. You build a strong partnership when you go through that process. It’s an affinity you can’t really buy. This is a very big part of horsemanship and one of my biggest achievements since the Youth Olympic Games. It’s priceless, having a combination and partnership like this.”

Malhas was born in 1992. Her mother, Arwa Mutabagani, is a prominent equestrian and has been a board member at the Saudi Equestrian Federation since 2008. She was also the first woman to be appointed to the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.

Malhas has had a thoroughly international upbringing. At 12 she moved with her mother from Saudi Arabia to Rome to train with her under Italy’s former showjumping national coach, Duccio Bartalucci, spending a decade under his tutelage.

After studying and training in Italy she joined a two-year professional program at the Fursan Equestrian Center in Chantilly, France. She has been training with Olympic champion Roger Yves Bost since 2016. 

She started 2019 by participating in several tournaments, crisscrossing Europe and gradually moving up the leaderboard. 

She has won several awards to date, including Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, and can be regarded as a pioneer and role model.

Malhas said there were great opportunities for Saudi women in the fields of sports and equestrianism. She talked about the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan and how it empowered women. She also saw an opportunity to become more involved. 

“I want to give back too. I’ve been mostly focused on showjumping and training, so hopefully I’ll start giving back and contribute to society and motivate my peers in the country. I don’t mind though I’ve been enjoying the ride and after years of work I’m finally being rewarded in the best way possible.”