Saudi squash ace ‘overwhelmed’ to play in Riyadh in PSA tour event

Camille Serme (pictured) beat the Saudi Arabian Nada Abo Alnaja in the first round of the PSA Women's Masters being held in Riyadh. (Courtesy of PSA.com)
Updated 09 January 2018

Saudi squash ace ‘overwhelmed’ to play in Riyadh in PSA tour event

RIYADH: The trailblazing Nada Abo Alnaja said she was “truly overwhelmed” after becoming the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour.
Alnaja, a wildcard for the event in Riyadh, was pitched against world No. 3 Camille Serme, who reached the semifinals of last month’s PSA Women’s World Championship, in round one and although she lost in straights, the appearance in the first ever women’s professional squash tournament to be held in Saudi Arabia will live long in the memory.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would one day stand here, in front of a Saudi crowd, playing Camille, in front of Nour [El-Sherbini] and all the top players,” Alnaja told the PSA website. “I’m truly overwhelmed, I don’t realize I think what just happened, and it will take some time to sink in … I enjoyed every minute of this match, I just hope I can get better, but I couldn’t hope for a better match. I want to thank Camille for allowing me to play, I know she was very nice to me today.”
Serme, the No 2 seed for the $165,000 event, was thrilled to be part of history at the Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh.
“It’s such an honor to play against the first ever [female] Saudi player and to live through that historical moment,” said Serme. “I hope she is going to keep on playing and make more and more tournaments.”
Saudi Arabian businessman Ziad Al-Turki is the chairman of the Professional Squash Association, and he felt Alnaja’s participation represented a landmark day for the sport and the Kingdom.
“So proud of Nada Aboalnaja today,” he tweeted. “Her 1st ever #psaworldtour match, with so much riding on her shoulders. KSA pride!”
Her appearance at the PSA event is the culmination of years of hard work for Abo Alnaja. The 32-year-old trains once, sometimes twice, a day and is continually fine tuning her game under the guidance of French coach Fabien Polly after initially teaching herself how to play.
“I started to play squash and I realize that it was a great way to get fit, but also it gave me the motivation I needed in the gym,” Alnaja said. “I just couldn’t go and do exercises: I needed a reason to go to the gym. Squash gave me that goal, that motivation.”
Alnaja hopes the staging of the maiden ranking event in Riyadh helps to raise the profile of the sport in the Kingdom and leads to a raising of standards and the breaking down of barriers.
“Playing squash in Saudi for a woman is a bit challenging, we have a long way to go to take Saudia Arabia to the next level,” she said. “We need to bring in here the expertise from abroad, we need coaches, we need clubs, we need courts. But you know, when I was hitting the ball for hours in my club in Jeddah, looking like a crazy woman, never would I have imagined where it would take me. So the lesson is: ladies, whatever it is, if you love something, whatever activity, make up, clothes, if you love it enough, just do it, just put all your energy in it, because you never know where it may take you.”


Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

The first stage of Rally Qassim began in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170km. Several drivers are keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020. (SPA)
Updated 18 October 2019

Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

  • French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Dakar Rally drivers are gearing up for a “thrilling and exciting” challenge when the world-famous desert race is staged in Saudi Arabia for the first time next year.
The Kingdom will host the event from Jan. 5 to 17, 2020 with top racers from around the globe traveling thousands of kilometers through inhospitable terrain in cars, trucks and on quad bikes and motorcycles.
The rally will begin in Jeddah and follow a tough route through desert, sand dunes and mountainous areas taking in NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya.
French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia.
“However, after doing some research, I realized that Saudi Arabia was a very wonderful and suitable country for the rally. It has different terrain types, and I expect us to have a perfect track. The vast desert gives me hope that the 2020 Saudi Dakar Rally will be more thrilling and exciting than Africa,” he said.
Five-time Dakar Rally winner and fellow French driver, Cyril Despres, said that racing in Saudi Arabia would be a new adventure that could only be experienced by those who lived up to its challenges.
“When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world,” he added.

Positive move
British rally raid motorcycle rider, Sam Sunderland, who won his category in the 2017 Dakar Rally, said he was delighted to be participating in the Saudi race. “I believe that this change is good, as I have lived in Dubai for 10 years, having adapted well to the Middle East’s atmosphere.

When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African Continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world.

Cyril Despres, French driver

“Exploring a new area is a positive move for the Dakar Rally, and I am certain that everyone who practices this sport is excited to explore a new ground for racing,” Sunderland added.
ED Racing Team driver, Issa Al-Dossari, said the main reason he had taken part in Rally Qassim was to prepare for the Dakar challenge.
“We will be using two cars in the rally. We look forward to raising the level of preparedness for many coming global events. But this does not mean that we will not compete for the top places.”
Al-Dossari invited sports fans to visit the team’s headquarters at Date City to see equipment and meet its members.
The team must participate in two different cars, the first driven by Al-Dossari with his French navigator Sébastien Delaunay, and the second with Emirati Abdallah Al-Huraiz behind the wheel and Ali Hassan navigating.
The first stage of Rally Qassim began on Friday in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170 km, with stage two raced over 200 km.
Meanwhile, entry registrations for the Dakar Rally are still open in all categories at https://www.dakar.com/en/the-competitors/register.