KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

Zahra Al-Quraishi, 21, is already a gold medal winner at an international event despite being a virtual rookie in the demanding sport of kickboxing. (Supplied photo)
Updated 19 March 2019
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KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

  • Young Saudi triumphant at Open International Tournament despite just two years of training
  • Zahra Al-Qurashi took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi

JEDDAH: Zahra Al-Qurashi never expected to be where she is today: A gold medal winner in full contact kickboxing at the Open International Tournament for Clubs aged just 21. What started out as a gym class two years ago soon turned into a passion, leading to her victory in Amman on Sunday.

“I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym. I found the class and gave it a try, and decided to keep attending the classes,” she said. “A year ago, I joined Flagboxing Gym, and started training with my coach Grethe (Kraugerud). With her help, I developed my style and I am improving every day.”

Full contact is a discipline of kickboxing where punches and kicks must be delivered to legal areas of the body. According to the World Association for Kickboxing Organizations’ rules, it is legal to attack the front of the head and front and side of the torso, using “ankle-level foot sweeps.” It is prohibited to attack the throat, lower abdomen, back, legs, joints, back of the head and top of the shoulders.

A medal at her first international competition, then, speaks volumes about Al-Qurashi’s tenacity. She took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi.

“As soon as I entered the ring, everything went blank, I couldn’t hear or see anyone but my opponent, so I don’t really recall hearing my name even,” said Al-Qurashi. “I got a couple of really good kicks and punches, but she was a good opponent. I was in my own zone though, following every move and made sure I didn’t make mistakes.”

Zahra Al-Quraishi, 21, is already a gold medal winner at an international event despite being a virtual rookie in the demanding sport of kickboxing. (Supplied photos)

Hala Al-Hamrani, the owner of Flagboxing Gym in Jeddah, said: “I am over the moon. I have dreamt about this happening for 16 years, ever since I started coaching. My goal was to eventually provide the ladies of this country with an opportunity to compete.”

For approximately two months, Kraugerud, from Norway, oversaw Al-Qurashi’s workouts, adding more sparring, interval training and intense ring practice.

“I’ve had Zahra spar with men, who are bigger and stronger than her, to give her a sense of what to expect in the ring, to give her more confidence and make her mentally prepared,” said Kraugerud. “I was very proud of her as she entered the ring, you could see the respect for the sport reflected in her. We did a really good job at Flag, we really pushed for this together as a team. She’s young, but she’s talented and she will go far.”

Al-Hamrani, a member of the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Federation, added: “We got her ready by providing her with the right practice and training. It’s a dream come true and it’s very overwhelming because it was such a long process for something like this to happen. Zahra is an up-and-coming athlete who hopefully has a long future and I’m extremely excited to see what that future holds.”

Abdul Aziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi MMA Federation, hailed the result after a tough bout between the two competitors, and thanked Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sport Authority, for the support he had given to the team.

Upon returning to her hometown of Jeddah, Al-Qurashi was greeted by her mother. “I was hugging her and crying and mom, being mom, asked if I was crying because I got hit,” she laughed. “That was her way of saying: I’m proud of you.”

 

 


Brazil legend Ronaldo attends Arab Club Champions cup final in Al-Ain

Updated 18 April 2019
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Brazil legend Ronaldo attends Arab Club Champions cup final in Al-Ain

  • The match featured Saudi side Al-Hilal and Etoile Sahel from Tunisia
  • Former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid player photographed with Abu Dhabi crown prince

AL-AIN, UAE: Brazilian football superstar Ronaldo was a special guest at the final of the Arab Club Champions Cup, which was held at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al-Ain.
The former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid player was photographed with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Saudi Arabia’s Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Sports Authority.
The match — featuring Saudi side Al-Hilal and Etoile Sahel from Tunisia — was won 2-1 by the Tunisian team, whose Mohamed Methnani scored an injury time winner to take home the trophy for his side.
The tournament is organized by the Union of Arab Football Associations (UAFA) and is contested by elite clubs from the Arab world, including 20 from the Asian Football Confederation and 20 from the Confederation of African Football.
Earlier this week, it was announced by Al-Sheikh that the 2020 edition of the tournament would be named after King Mohamed VI of Morocco.
“I am honored as the President of the Arab Football Federation (to announce) that the second edition of the Arab Champions Cup will bear a name dear to all Arabs, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God protect him, who honored us with his approval,” Al-Sheikh posted on Tuesday on his official Facebook page.