Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

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Outside of her national team duties Dalma Malhas hopes to give back too and contribute to society and ‘motivate my peers in the country.’ (Photo/Supplied)
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Outside of her national team duties Dalma Malhas hopes to give back too and contribute to society and ‘motivate my peers in the country.’ (Photo/Supplied)
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Outside of her national team duties Dalma Malhas hopes to give back too and contribute to society and ‘motivate my peers in the country.’ (Photo/Supplied)
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Outside of her national team duties Dalma Malhas hopes to give back too and contribute to society and ‘motivate my peers in the country.’ (Photo/Supplied)
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Outside of her national team duties Dalma Malhas hopes to give back too and contribute to society and ‘motivate my peers in the country.’ (Photo/Supplied)
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Outside of her national team duties Dalma Malhas hopes to give back too and contribute to society and ‘motivate my peers in the country.’ (Photo/Supplied)
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Outside of her national team duties Dalma Malhas hopes to give back too and contribute to society and ‘motivate my peers in the country.’ (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 21 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.”


Spain’s Marc Gasol on verge of rare NBA-World Cup double

Updated 15 September 2019

Spain’s Marc Gasol on verge of rare NBA-World Cup double

  • The 34-year-old proved his enduring quality by saving Spain in Friday’s double overtime victory over Australia

BEIJING: Spain’s Marc Gasol is one victory away from a rare feat — winning the NBA crown and a Basketball World Cup in the same year.

Only Lamar Odom, a double winner in 2010 with the US and the Los Angeles Lakers, has ever managed that, according to basketball’s governing body FIBA.

Now the center Gasol, who played a key role in the Toronto Raptors’ run to the NBA title, is on the verge of joining him in the history books.

The 34-year-old proved his enduring quality by saving Spain in Friday’s double overtime victory over Australia to set up a World Cup final against Argentina on Sunday in Beijing.

He had 33 points, six rebounds and four assists after stepping up when his country needed him most.

Gasol, who also lifted the world crown with Spain in 2006, said he was less interested in his personal landmark and more motivated by what it means for his country.

“I just cherish every moment for what it is,” the three-time NBA All-Star told FIBA. “I don’t try to double up. I want to give the maximum for every occasion.

“It is two completely different situations. I’m going to give my best to win a World Cup for Spain.”

BACKGROUND

Outgoing champions Team USA won their final match at the Basketball World Cup — but it was still their worst finishing place in the tournament’s history.

Gasol admitted that playing matches every other day in China soon after a long NBA season was tough.

“I knew that committing to the national team this summer would not be easy physically because we were so lucky to stretch our (NBA) season and get away with a championship,” he said.

“But it’s completely worth it.”

Few predicted a Spain-Argentina final.

But quarter-final defeats for reigning two-time champions the US and title favorites Serbia left the door open for the remainder of the field.

Argentina were convincing 80-66 winners over France in their semifinal with their 39-year-old talisman Luis Scola propelling them into the showdown with Spain.

Scola finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and two assists, and was given a huge ovation when he stepped off the court near the end.

Argentine coach Sergio Hernandez said there was no secret ingredient to Scola’s success, even as middle age approaches.

“He works so hard,” said Hernandez, explaining how Scola had locked himself away in his own training camp at the start of the summer.

“He was in his house, in the middle of nowhere, for 14 weeks in a row,” said Hernandez.

“He made a basketball court and was there was a basketball trainer and a physical trainer.”

Argentina’s only previous World Cup success came as hosts in the inaugural edition in 1950.

Also on Sunday, Australia, who led for long periods against Spain, play France for bronze.