For a cause: Mariam Saleh Binladen completes assisted English Channel swim

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Mariam Saleh Binladen after her River Thames swim feat in June.
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Mariam Saleh Binladen leaves the White Cliffs of Dover on Channel swim.
Updated 26 September 2016

For a cause: Mariam Saleh Binladen completes assisted English Channel swim

DOVER, England: Mariam Saleh Binladen became the first from Saudi Arabia to make a solo assisted crossing of the English Channel, the world’s most celebrated open water swim. Mariam took on the Channel swim as part of a series of ultimate endurance challenges to raise awareness of the plight of orphan children from Syria.
The story of Mariam’s epic swimming feats will be told in a film documentary ‘I am Mariam Binladen’ to be premiered in December.
Mariam’s Channel swim was ratified by the Channel Crossing Association (CCA) which permits swimmers to wear wetsuits and receive assistance to ensure a safe crossing. Mariam completed the swim in 11 hours and 41 minutes, setting off at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13, from Samphire Hoe in Dover on the south coast of England and landing at Cap Gris Nez in Calais France at 6:41 p.m. on Tuesday.
Mariam’s swim coincided with some unusually warm weather conditions in the south of England. Temperatures have reached record highs of over 30 degrees Celsius, last seen more than 100 years ago in 1911. In completing the Channel, Mariam successfully navigated one of the worlds’ busiest shipping lanes with up to 600 tankers and 200 ferries passing through each day.
Commenting on the swim Mariam said: “Completing the Channel swim is a dream come true and the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition. It has been an incredibly tough two years preparing for this, but I have learned that if you are determined enough to achieve your goals and dreams – they can and will happen. I hope that my achievements will inspire others whilst at the same time I hope to draw more awareness to the plight of millions of suffering Syrian orphan refugees.”
According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) more than 4 million Syrians have fled their homeland with half being children under the age of 17.
Mariam continued: “As a young woman from the Middle East, I wanted to use my endurance swims to draw more awareness to the humanitarian disaster in Syria and hopefully make some kind of difference to the lives of those affected, particularly the orphaned children.”
Earlier in the summer, Mariam set a new world record as the first woman to officially swim 101 miles of the source of the River Thames in the United Kingdom. The June swim was completed over 10 days, during which Mariam navigated 32 locks and some of the South of England’s most iconic towns and villages. Known for its strong currents and eddies as well as high pollution levels, the Thames is well-known for being one of the most challenging and dangerous river swims.
Mariam prepared for the Channel swim for more than two years with a punishing physical training program supported by her coach and swim-mentor Fiona Southwell. Training included daily routines in the open water and the completion of several marathon swim events. In August 2015, Mariam swam the Hellespont open water swim in Turkey becoming the first Saudi female to complete the race from Europe to Asia.
Mariam was guided across the Channel by experienced pilot Andrew King, skipper of the escort boat and founder of the Channel Crossing Association. A film documentary ‘I am Mariam Binladen’ chronicling Mariam’s journey and achievements will be aired at the end of the year on Swiss TV.
Download a short interview with Mariam here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bUnBs1fAgk


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.”