Preview: Winter Olympics leading lights and Arab interest

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Moroccan Samir Azzimani will be one of two athletes representing Morocco at the Winter Olympics 2018 in PyeongChang. (AP)
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Martin Fourcade
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Lindsey Vonn.
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Kjetil Jansrud.
Updated 09 February 2018

Preview: Winter Olympics leading lights and Arab interest

LONDON: Here are the leading lights looking to land gold over the next two weeks in South Korea.
KJETIL JANSRUD — The Norwegian heads up a powerful set of skiers from the Winter Olympic heavyweights also boasting the likes of speed king Aksel Lund Svindal and slalom expert Henrik Kristoffersen. Jansrud won super-G gold and downhill bronze in Sochi in 2014 and giant slalom silver in 2010. His versatility is legendary and he has history in South Korea, having won the downhill on the Olympic course in February last year.
MARTIN FOURCADE — The 29-year-old brings to Pyeongchang all the credentials for achieving more success. An 11-time world champion and six-time overall World Cup winner, Fourcade won two golds and a silver at Sochi 2014 having also claimed silver in 2010. The French army officer has been in imperious form this season, but so has Norwegian Johannes Boe, the only man capable of stopping his golden charge. It all makes for a thrilling showdown in South Korea.
CHLOE KIM — Aged just 17, Chloe Kim is tipped by many to become the breakout star of the Winter Olympics in Korea, her parents’ homeland. Too young to compete in Sochi four years ago, she’s a halfpipe snowboard specialist who has racked up some impressive performances over the past few months. She is a four-times Winter X Games champion and was America’s flag-bearer at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics, where she won the halfpipe and slopestyle titles.

MIKAELA SHIFFRIN — At just 22 years old, the Colorado native has already racked up 41 wins on the World Cup circuit, mainly in the slalom. But this year has seen Shiffrin add a further string to her bow as she branches out into the speed disciplines. She streaked to a first downhill victory in Lake Louise and given Pyeongchang’s favorable schedule, Shiffrin could realistically medal in four events.
LINDSEY VONN — The 33-year-old American has won four World Cup overall championships as well as an Olympic gold in the downhill at the 2010 Games. Despite missing the 2014 Games through injury she has become one of the most recognizable sportswomen in the world. She has 81 World Cup wins to her name, closing down on Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86, and is aiming for a last Olympic hurrah in South Korea.
CHOI MIN-JEONG — In her first Olympics, 19-year-old Choi is South Korea’s potential golden girl and the favorite over three distances in short-track speed skating — 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m. A fourth gold is not out of reach on home soil if she can help the host nation win the 3,000m relay. The Chinese women will hope to stand in her way.

Saudi Arabia’s young athletes looking to shine at Youth Olympics

Updated 15 October 2018

Saudi Arabia’s young athletes looking to shine at Youth Olympics

BUENOS AIRES: Fresh from watching Ali Yousef Al-Othman clinching Saudi Arabia’s first medal at the ongoing Youth Olympic Games, the country’s quartet of athletics participants will enter the second week of competition in South America buoyed by strong performances in the opening heats and aiming to add to the country’s success. 


Al-Othman secured bronze in the men’s -85kg weightlifting on Friday night just hours after Ahmed Al-Marwani and Raghad Bu Arish had impressed on the Youth Olympic Park’s nearby racing track.  Alongside Prince Fahd bin Juluwe bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, the head of the delegation, both Bu Arish and Al-Marwani watched from inside the weightlifting as their flag was raised in recognition of Al-Othman’s achievement. 


Bu Arish, the first Saudi female to compete at a Youth Olympics, had earlier completed her women’s 100-metre heat in 14.68 seconds, finishing seventh. Wearing a white headscarf, the 16-year-old finished 3.29s behind heat-winner Gabriela Suarez of Ecuador and 3.51s behind the fastest female overall, Nigeria’s Rosemary Chukama.


“I am the first girl from Saudi Arabia to come to the Youth Olympics, so I am so proud of myself and my family,” Bu Arish, with a tear slowly rolling down her face and her father and brother watching on from the stands, told Arab News. “I was very nervous, but I feel very happy. I trained at the organised camp and also competed in many races to prepare for this moment. It is so nice to know you are competing in the Olympic Games.”


Bu Arish will contest the 100m finals on Monday at 16.05 local time (22.05 Mecca) and Yousef Jalaiden, the chef de mission for the Saudi delegation, expects the 16-year-old to be the first of many Saudi women competing at this level.


“I think it’s great,” he said. “We have many female athletes competing in different sports and I think, in five years from now, we are going to surprise the world with how many women we have competing in sports. We had two girls at the Asian Games playing badminton, but these things take time. It’s a gradual process.”


Shortly after Bu Arish, Al-Marwani contested the men’s 100m, finishing third in his heat with a time of 10.94s. His result placed him 0.38s behind outright leader Luke Davids of South Africa, but ahead of Iran’s Mahdi Rezaei who shares an identical personal best of 10.81s. He will now contest the final heat on Tuesday, although a medal is unlikely.


Jalaiden is more confident of a medal in 400m Hurdles, where Mohammed Al-Muawi qualified for the finals, finishing second in his heat behind Hungary’s Daniel Huller. The 17-year-old’s recorded time of 52.76 set a new personal best by more than half a second and placed him just 0.78s behind Huller. The result was considerably more impressive given four athletes in Al-Muawi’s heat had better form, posting season bests that eclipsed his own. He will race again on Tuesday with Saudi chiefs hopeful of doubling their medal haul.


“To be honest, we have achieved everything we expected so far,” said Jalaiden. “For example, in weightlifting, we expected to have a bronze and we got it. In others, we expected to leave with nothing and that’s what’s happened. I think we are on the right track. For the week to come, I hope we can get a medal in the 400m hurdles and also karate. For karate, we are almost sure and in the 400m we will see on Tuesday how we get on.”


Mohammed Al-Assiri is the karateka the Saudi delegation are pinning their hopes on. He will begin his Kumite -61kg campaign on Wednesday after successfully negotiating the qualification event in Croatia this past summer, Fayez Al-Subaie, meanwhile, will contest the Men’s Cross Country on Monday after finishing 15th in the 3000m.