Saudi Arabia’s youngest gymnast vows that she ‘will win Olympic gold’ one day

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Saudi Arabia's youngest gymnast Aya Shata. (AN photo)
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Saudi Arabia's youngest gymnast Aya Shata. (AN photo)
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Saudi Arabia's youngest gymnast Aya Shata. (AN photo)
Updated 17 March 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s youngest gymnast vows that she ‘will win Olympic gold’ one day

JEDDAH: When Aya Shata was 5, she told her mother she would grow up to become an Olympic champion.
Now, two years later, Saudi Arabia’s youngest gymnast is on her way to realizing her dream. And her mother, Dr. Dania Bogari, said she “will go to the ends of the earth to make that happen.”
Shata was born and raised in Jeddah and attends Jeddah Knowledge School.
The young gymnast started practicing gymnastics by herself at the age of 2, and would enrol in camps whenever she traveled.
Shata is enthusiastic about other sports, too, and has taken classes in ballet, football and basketball. She has an orange belt in karate.
Aya has several certificates from the Dynamic Code Center sports club in Jeddah, which has congratulated her on her gymnastic achievements.
Her mother said that Aya’s older brother Alwaleed had been her inspiration. “They are three years apart, and he showed her the world of sports when she first opened her eyes,” said Bogari.
“I want to go to the Olympics when I grow up, win gold medals and represent Saudi Arabia,” the young gymnast told Arab News.
She took part in many gymnastic competitions, including Spartan Arabia in January 2017.
“Even when Aya was 2, I noticed that she was different from other children,” her mother said. “She was very determined. She was passionate about gymnastics. Other kids were not — they used to cry. I felt like their mothers were pushing them into it.
“Aya is different, she loves to go and actually asks me to take her to gymnastics,” she said.
Bogari said her daughter’s determination made gender roles and age limitations meaningless.
“She was the only girl in the soccer team. It was weird for the boys, but she did well. Even in basketball, she was the youngest and the coaches wanted to put her in the younger group, but she proved she can play with the older children.”
The young gymnast cares deeply about the environment and has created a scrapbook that highlights types of pollution and their risks.
“Aside from sports, Aya is very creative,” her mother said.
Bogari urged Saudi schools to foster talent and pointed to the UAE’s “Youth Ambassador Program” as an example of talented young people being trained as future national representatives.
“Aya is so proud to be Saudi — she loves her country, and wants to represent it and show that anything others can do, we can, too.
“I hope Aya finds all the support she needs to pursue her dream as a Saudi Olympic champion. As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: ‘The success of the nation depends on the youth.”
Meanwhile, the young gymnast’s advice to anyone who wants to succeed is to “dream big and practice more to fulfil your talent.”


Saudi aviation academy to train first women pilots

Updated 55 min 43 sec ago
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Saudi aviation academy to train first women pilots

DAMMAM: A flight school in Saudi Arabia is opening its doors for women, following the end of a decades-long driving ban in the deeply conservative Muslim country where many social restrictions are easing.
Oxford Aviation Academy, a leading trainer and crew recruiter, has already received applications from hundreds of women hoping to start lessons in September at a new branch in the eastern city of Dammam.
“People used to travel abroad (to study aviation), which was difficult for women more than men,” said applicant Dalal Yashar, who aspires to work as a civil pilot.
“We are no longer living in the era were women were allowed (to work) in limited arenas. All avenues are now opened for women. If you have the appetite, you have the ability,” she said.
The academy is part of a $300 million project that includes a school for aircraft maintenance and an international center for flight simulators at the airport.
Students receive three years of academic and practical training, said executive director Othman Al-Moutairy.
A decades-long ban on women driving was lifted last month, as part of sweeping reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aimed at transforming the economy and opening up its cloistered society.
The lifting of the prohibition was welcomed by Western allies as proof of a new progressive trend in Saudi Arabia, but it has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including against some of the very activists who previously campaigned against the ban.