Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Attar breaks barriers in Rio marathon

THAT'S THE SPIRIT: Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar competing in the women's 800m heats at the athletics event of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the capital, in this August 2012 file photo.(AFP)
Updated 08 August 2016
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Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Attar breaks barriers in Rio marathon

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil: Pioneer Saudi sportswoman Sarah Attar has already raced at the Olympics, but now her campaign will become a marathon as she uses the Rio Games to break down barriers in the Kingdom.
Attar turned heads in the head-to-toe outfit she patched together with her mother to race in the 800 meters at the 2012 London Games, where she was one of the first Saudi women Olympians.
This time Attar, now 23, will take on the grueling 42-km (26-mile) marathon race in Rio, where four Saudi women will take part.
The women and seven Saudi men arrived in Rio on Monday, but were kept away from prying media.
Along with Attar, they are judoka Wujud Fahmi, fencer Lubna Al-Omair and 100m runner Cariman Abu Al-Jadail.
None qualified directly for their competition, but will take part with special invitations from the International Olympic Committee.
Attar has no regrets and no doubts about running in London and Rio.
"I was going for the women in Saudi Arabia, for all the young girls to have someone in the Olympics representing them, giving them a picture of something they could one day strive for," she said in a recent article for the Like The Wind runners' magazine.
Attar finished last in her 800 meters heat in London, more than half a minute behind her nearest rival. She still got a standing ovation when she crossed the line.
The Californian with Saudi-US nationality has never run under three hours in four attempts on the Boston marathon, but can no doubt expect a similar acclaim in Rio.
Taking part in sport is not easy for Saudi women and finding women to go to the London Olympics was a challenge.
"My mom and I pieced together an outfit: A long-sleeve shirt, full-length running tights, and a head cover we found online," Attar told Marie-Claire magazine.
"I was proud to wear the uniform and liked that wearing the appropriate dress connected me to Saudi girls who want to run and have to be covered while they do it."
Since London, Attar has become a sponsored athlete training with elite women runners in Mammoth Lakes, California.
Attar and her family have also noticed change in Saudi Arabia since the London Games.
Her father, Amer Attar, told the Washington Post how on a 2011 visit, when his daughter wanted to go on a run, he gave her a boyish "cap and warm-up pants" and drove beside her.
Last year, he saw men and women running together in Jeddah.
"I even saw a guy with his, I think, looked like his wife, and they were holding hands and running together. And she was wearing the abaya, and she was covered up, but they were actually running."
Still, the IOC has rejected a suggestion by a Saudi Arabian official could jointly host the Olympics with neighbouring Bahrain, holding men's and women's events in separate states.
President Thomas Bach said "a commitment to 'non-discrimination' will be mandatory for all countries hoping to bid for the Olympics in the future".


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”