Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad
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Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Aseel Al-Hamad said the fact that only 1.5 percent of racing licences are held by women was “a big international issue.” (Photo: Faisal Albisher)
Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad
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Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber. The model goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020. (Porsche)
Updated 22 November 2019

Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad
  • FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track"
  • Said Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting popularity of motorsport

RIYADH: One of Saudi Arabia’s first female racing drivers believes motorsport is too male dominated and that more needs to be done to encourage women to enter the sport.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Aseel Al-Hamad said the fact that only 1.5 percent of racing licences are held by women was “a big international issue.”

Al-Hamad, who is also the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said that while there are some women blazing a trail in the sport, more needs to be done by its authorities.

“There are Formula 1 drivers like Tatiana Calderón, team principles such as Susie Wolff and Claire Williams. We also have female mechanical engineers and in all kinds of positions, but they are just a few. 

“We need to use them as role models to encourage more young girls to become like these amazing women,” she added.

Al-Hamad, who has been passionate about cars since her youth, told Arab News that she is a fan of Formula 1 and a highlight of her career was being invited to drive an F1 car, but her driving idol was Michèle Mouton.

“Because, back then in the 1980s, she competed in an all-men rally championship. And honestly, I don't think anyone did what she did at that time,” she said.

It is experiences like those that inspired her to forge a path for more women in motorsport and lead the way for female drivers in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Al-Hamad, who mixes racing with her interior design business, is one of the representatives on the International Automobile Federation (FIA)’s “Women in Motorsport Commission”, which creates programs and initiatives to encourage more young girls to be inspired by the sport and consider it as a career.

“I won’t forget the day I got contacted by the president of the Federation asking me to join the board of directors, it's great because I have lots of difficulties in my career and it's so great to now build a foundation for these young women and ensure that they won't go through the struggles and the challenges I went through,” she said.

On the possibility of one day seeing a Saudi female world champion in major motorsport such as F1 and Formula E, she said: “Today, it is possible, especially when we are seeing how the government is very much supporting sports and women’s participation in sport. 

“We have just recently started and we're starting really fast. I won’t be surprised to see a champion soon competing in big international events.”

Al-Hamad also said the Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting the popularity of motorsport in the country and the wider region. 

“Maybe most of the people used to watch football. But, today, when we have such international motorsport event, so many people will get closer to the motorsport and understand the rules. 

“And maybe these young generations, when they attend the race, they might get inspired and become fans of motorsport.” She added.

The FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track,” the second time such an event has been held outside of Europe.

“This event is very much focused on encouraging young girls from eight to 18 years old to discover their talents and motorsport, hopefully it will inspire them to consider a career in motorsport,” Al-Hamad said. 

The event will include educational workshops to introduce girls to a range of topics -- from mechanical engineering to motorsport journalism, as well as opportunities to use racing simulators and to drive on a carting track.

The girls will also take part in a panel discussion with some figurehead females in motorsport including Susie Wolff, team principal of Venturi Formula E. 

“We've approached mostly schools and we sent them invitations to have girls register and hopefully they will discover their talents,” Al-Hamad said.

Her advice to young women is to achieve what they dream for, even if they are dreaming big.

“They might have some fears at the beginning, they might think it's impossible. But my advice to them is to take small steps and just think of the steps with time, they will be surprised that they actually achieve their dreams,” she said.

Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber.




Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber. The model goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020. (Porsche)

The Taycan, which goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020, is the most powerful production electric model that the sports car manufacturer currently has in its product range, hitting 0-100kmh in 3.2 seconds.

On driving it, Al-Hamad said: “We wanted to test the performance of the car and it's great that we just arrived ahead of Porsche's debut in the Formula E this weekend.

“I love the handling, the feeling, it's a fast car, it has the same Porsche DNA in its interior and exterior. It is a beautiful car.”


Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris

Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris
Updated 57 min 51 sec ago

Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris

Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris
  • 25-year-old Czech champion pays emotional tribute to her mentor Jana Novotna

PARIS: Barbora Krejcikova won her maiden Grand Slam singles title at the French Open on Saturday, beating Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to become the first Czech woman in 40 years to conquer Roland Garros before dedicating her victory to former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna who died four years ago.

Krejcikova, ranked 33 in the world and playing just her fifth main draw in a Slams singles event, triumphed 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 for a second career title.

The 25-year-old emulates compatriot Hana Mandlikova who claimed the trophy in Paris in 1981.

The 25-year-old Krejcikova paid an emotional tribute to her mentor Novotna, who died of cancer at the age of 49 in 2017.

“It’s hard to put into words. I cannot believe I have just won a Grand Slam,” said Krejcikova who was still outside the top 100 when the 2020 French Open took place last October.

“I spent a lot of time with Jana before she died. Her last words to me were ‘enjoy tennis and try and win a Grand Slam’.

“I know she’s looking after me. All this is pretty much because she is looking after me.

“It was amazing that I got the chance to meet her. She was such an inspiration. I miss her and I hope she’s really happy,” added Krejcikova who had to save a match point in her semifinal to defeat Maria Sakkari.

Krejcikova, who can also win a third Grand Slam women’s doubles title on Sunday with Katerina Siniakova, was presented with the trophy by Czech-born Martina Navratilova who won two French Opens in 1982 and 1984 but as an American citizen.

Krejcikova will rise to number 15 in the world as a result of her win on Saturday as she became the sixth successive first-time major winner in Paris.

She is also the third unseeded champion at Roland Garros in the last five years after Jelena Ostapenko in 2017 and Iga Swiatek in 2020.

If she adds the doubles on Sunday, she’ll be the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to claim both titles at the same Roland Garros.

Pavlyuchenkova was playing in her first Slam final at the 52nd attempt and was attempting to become the third oldest first-time winner of a major.

“I was preparing a speech for this moment ever since I was a little kid and now I am lost for words,” said the 29-year-old.

“Many thanks to my friends who came here from all over the world for one match — maybe they thought this was my one and only chance!

“Congratulations to Barbora. I don’t know how you play singles and doubles. I was dead on the last point.”

In a nervy start to the final, Krejcikova was broken in the first game, serving up two double faults.

However, the Russian was unable to capitalize and dropped the next six games as her Czech opponent grabbed three breaks and raced way with the opener inside half an hour.

Krejcikova was rewarded for her bold attacking, hitting 13 winners to the Russian’s seven.

Pavlyuchenkova, who made her Slam debut back in 2007, was the more composed player in the second set, stretching out to 5-1.

A medical timeout at 5-2, during which she was seen munching Haribo gummy bears, merely delayed the Russian leveling the final.

In the decider, the players exchanged breaks in the third and fourth games, before the Czech broke to love for 4-3 on the back of a 10-shot rally. Pavlyuchenkova saved two championship points in the ninth game and a third in the 10th but Krejcikova became champion on the fourth when the Russian hit long.

Both women capitalized on a draw in which the top seeds fell and just kept falling.

World No. 1 and 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty hobbled out in the second round.

Serena Williams was knocked out in the fourth round, world number two Naomi Osaka withdrew after one match, while 2018 champion Simona Halep never even made it to Paris.


Denmark’s Christian Eriksen conscious in hospital after collapsing at Euro 2020

Denmark's Christian Eriksen (R) in action with Finland's Jere Uronen. (Reuters)
Denmark's Christian Eriksen (R) in action with Finland's Jere Uronen. (Reuters)
Updated 42 min 34 sec ago

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen conscious in hospital after collapsing at Euro 2020

Denmark's Christian Eriksen (R) in action with Finland's Jere Uronen. (Reuters)
  • The Danish DBU football association tweeted that the 29-year-old was 'awake and at Rigshospitalet for further examinations'

COPENHAGEN: Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen was conscious in hospital on Saturday, soccer officials said, after collapsing during his side's Euro 2020 opening soccer match with Finland and being given CPR on the pitch.

Eriksen collapsed suddenly in the 42nd minute of the match while running near the left touchline after a Denmark throw-in. As a hush fell over the 16,000-strong crowd, his teammates formed a ring around him as medics pumped his chest.

A Reuters photographer at the game saw Eriksen raise his hand as he was carried away from the pitch on a stretcher, and the Danish football association later said on Twitter that the 29-year-old was awake at the nearby Rigshospitalet, where he was being examined.

“We have been in contact with him and the players have spoken to Christian,” said Peter Moller of the Danish Football Association.

The game was initially suspended but it was decided that it would resume at 1830 GMT, with Finland eventually running out 1-0 winners.

“He is doing well and they are playing the match for Christian,” Moller said.

The game was scoreless when Eriksen, who plays club soccer for Inter Milan in Italy, collapsed just before halftime in their Group B clash. Teammates Martin Braithwaite and Thomas Delaney rushed to assist him, with Delaney beckoning furiously for medical assistance.

People gathered outside bars in central Copenhagen, many in tears, in the long period when Eriksen's condition remained unclear.

Both teams subsequently left the field with officials holding up sheets to hide the stricken player from view, and the stadium announcer told fans that the game had been suspended due to a medical emergency and to stay in their seats.

The crowd at the Parken stadium in Copenhagen sang the Danish national anthem and shouted “Christian Eriksen” while they were waiting for news about the player.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Christian Eriksen and his family,” Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo said on Instagram. “The world of football stands together hoping for good news. I’m counting on finding you soon back on the pitch, Chris! Stay strong!”

Eriksen's team-mate at Inter Milan, Lautaro Martinez, wrote on the site: “Come on Chris! Please Chris.”


Five things we learned from penultimate World Cup qualifiers as Gulf’s main challengers win again

Five things we learned from penultimate World Cup qualifiers as Gulf’s main challengers win again
Updated 12 June 2021

Five things we learned from penultimate World Cup qualifiers as Gulf’s main challengers win again

Five things we learned from penultimate World Cup qualifiers as Gulf’s main challengers win again
  • Saudi Arabia left it late against Singapore while UAE cruised against Indonesia, but neither can afford any slip-ups on the final matchday

Friday was another good evening for Arab teams in the penultimate set of matches in the second round of 2022 World Cup qualification. The big teams all won but then so did most of their group rivals to set up a what is sure to be tense final matchday.

Here are five things we learned.

1. Relief for Renard and all of Saudi Arabia

A 3-0 win for Saudi sounds comprehensive but it was scoreless heading into the final 10 minutes and Singapore, determined and resolute in defense and unusually cynical in terms of running down the clock, had just hit the post. There were nerves in Riyadh, and fans who had expected a regulation win against a team that had lost 5-0 to Uzbekistan and 4-0 to Palestine in the past eight days were suddenly checking the rankings of the best performing second-placed teams.

Saudi Arabia were starting to run out of ideas — and not beating Singapore would have been a huge blow to confidence as well as chances of reaching the next round — when the main man Salem Al-Dawsari popped up with a goal six minutes from time. Then the fleet-footed Fahad Al-Muwallad took advantage of a mistake and all was well with the world. He helped spare coach Renard a very difficult time with one consolation being that Uzbekistan also struggled in their Yemen clash. It will be forgotten if the right result is collected against Uzbekistan on Tuesday.

2. As expected, it comes down to the final game for UAE

After successive defeats at the hands of Thailand and Vietnam all the way back in 2019, the UAE would surely have settled for going into the final game still in control of its own destiny and that is the case.

Once again, Ali Mabkhout and Fabio Lima got on the scoresheet in a comprehensive 5-0 win against Indonesia to make it three wins out of three in the last week or so. Vietnam will be a tougher test of course and the two-point advantage the Golden Stars have is crucial. It is not just that the Reds can afford to draw, but that position means that Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo, Mr. Pragmatism, will love nothing more than being able to sit back, let the UAE do the running and hit on the counter-attack. It could be a frustrating 90 minutes for the Emiratis. 

3. Iraq set themselves up for a huge test

The 2007 Asian champions have slipped under the radar a little but have been in great form and the 1-0 win over Hong Kong was a 19th game without defeat. It wasn’t a vintage performance, but sometimes there are games in which you just have to win by any means and this was one of those. Iraq has become adept at grinding out results and may need to do something similar against Iran on Tuesday.

Despite the great form, Iraq will face their toughest test for years and they may well need that two-point advantage if they are to finish first — though it may well be the case that second will be enough. Iran has won all three of their games in Bahrain and have real momentum. They also have players such as Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi who are coming off great European seasons and look like scoring every time they get the ball. It is a huge game for both teams.

4. Yemen did Saudi Arabia, and themselves, proud

If Uzbekistan thought all it had to do was turn up against Yemen to take the three points it was very much mistaken. The veteran defender Ahmed Wahid was everywhere in the middle, intercepting, instructing and tackling and just using all of his 35 years to keep the men from Sanaa in the game. Yemen has played little football in recent years due to the conflict in the country but pushed Uzbekistan all the way. Indeed, the Central Asians only won due to a first-half penalty. 

The stage is not over for Yemen. The team may be bottom of the group but if they defeat Palestine on Tuesday then they will finish third behind Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, two powers of the Asian game, and that will be a success and something to be proud of. It would also be a huge step toward another appearance at the Asian Cup.

5. Kuwait and Jordan trip each other up

These two second-tier West Asian powers have had a disappointing campaign so far with neither really suggesting they are ready to move up to the next level; Kuwait especially because it has had home advantage since the second round resumed but failed to score a single goal against Australia and Jordan.

The 0-0 draw between the two on Friday has surely ended the hopes of both teams and even if Jordan defeat Australia on Tuesday, it is unlikely that it will be enough to finish as one of the best four runners-up. Both will look back and wonder if they could not have done more.


Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series

Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series
Updated 12 June 2021

Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series

Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series
  • Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta

ATLANTA: Joel Embiid scored 27 points and the Philadelphia 76ers rode a dominant third quarter to a 127-111 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Embiid, playing with a cartilage tear in his right knee, added nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots.
Tobias Harris had 22 points and Ben Simmons added 18 to help the 76ers end Atlanta’s streak of 13 home wins. The 76ers have taken the series lead with back-to-back wins.
The 76ers played up to their No. 1 seed, taking a lead of 22 points and keeping the advantage in double figures most of the second half. The Hawks played from behind after their last lead at 11-10.
Trae Young led Atlanta with 28 points. John Collins had 23 and Bogdan Bogdanovic 19.
Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.
After leading 65-60 early in the third period, Philadelphia took command with an 11-0 run. The 76ers outscored the Hawks 34-19 in the third period.
Simmons had two baskets during the run, including a jam for a 76-60 lead.
Atlanta couldn’t regain the momentum as the 76ers stretched the lead to 20 points, 93-73, late in the period.
Embiid, who faced constant double-teams from Atlanta’s defense, made 12 of 16 free throws.
Embiid had a scare in the third quarter when he limped and appeared to be in pain after grabbing a rebound. Embiid appeared to step awkwardly on Clint Capela’s foot and he remained in the game.
Hawks coach Nate McMillan asked for a strong start that eluded his team in its Game 2 loss. Instead, Philadelphia relied on an unlikely scoring source to grab the early lead.
Furkan Korkmaz, who scored a combined seven points in the first two games of the series, scored 11 points in the opening period while making two 3s. He added another 3 in the fourth for 14 points.
The 76ers stretched the advantage to 11 points in the second period before settling for a 61-56 halftime lead.

TIP-INS
76ers: G Danny Green suffered a right calf strain less than four minutes into the game and did not return. Matisse Thybulle replaced Green. ... Harris hit the back of his head on a camera while falling on the baseline with 9:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. Harris walked off after being checked by trainers and returned to the game.
Hawks: Atlanta’s last home loss was April 15 against Milwaukee. The 13-game home winning streak was the NBA’s longest active streak. ... F Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) has participated in two-on-two and three-on-three drills but has not yet moved up to full five-on-five sessions. Reddish, who ultimately could help fill the void left by De’Andre Hunter’s season-ending knee surgery scheduled for Tuesday, does not appear likely to return against the 76ers.

Jumping to his own defense
76ers coach Doc Rivers says he always “feels great” when he returns to Atlanta, where he began his playing career as the Hawks’ point guard. He reminded reporters before the game he still holds the Hawks’ career assists record.
Rivers felt compelled to mention his link to one of the game’s all-time greats, Julius Erving — better known as Dr. J — when defending his talents to his skeptical players.
“They don’t believe I could jump at all,” Rivers said before the game. “... I said, ‘You guys do know I’m named Doc. It’s not after a doctor. It’s after a guy who could jump.’”
Rivers had 3,866 assists with Atlanta from 1983-91. Mookie Blaylock is second with 3,764.


Italy convincing in 3-0 win over Turkey to open Euro 2020

Italy convincing in 3-0 win over Turkey to open Euro 2020
Updated 12 June 2021

Italy convincing in 3-0 win over Turkey to open Euro 2020

Italy convincing in 3-0 win over Turkey to open Euro 2020

ROME: Italy waited a long time for this European Championship to start and then showed Friday just how eager the team was to play the tournament opener.
After humiliatingly failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Italy was already back on track with a perfect qualifying campaign of 10 wins in 10 matches. Now Roberto Mancini’s team has begun its first major international tournament in five years with a convincing 3-0 win over Turkey.
“It was important to start well and it’s satisfying for us, for the crowd and for all Italians,” Mancini said. “It was a wonderful evening and I hope there will be many more.”
Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne both scored after an own-goal from Turkey defender Merih Demiral had given Italy the lead — all in the second half.
Demiral redirected a cross from Domenico Berardi into his own net after attempting to intercept the pass. Immobile then poked in a rebound of a shot from Leonardo Spinazzola on another play that began with Berardi, and Insigne later curled one in after a failed clearance by Turkey goalkeeper Uğurcan Çakır.
Italy dominated from the start but was denied in the first half by a superb save from Çakır and a decision by the referee not to award a penalty for an apparent handball.
The victory extended Italy’s unbeaten run to 28 matches and boosted the Azzurri’s status as a title contender.
“We played a great match and we didn’t permit Turkey to play, and they are not a weak side,” Mancini said.
The tournament, which is still being called Euro 2020, began a year late because of the pandemic.
The Stadio Olimpico was still only 25 percent full because of coronavirus measures and fans sat in small groups safely distanced from one another. Still, the crowd of about 16,000 was the largest gathering in Italy since the pandemic took hold.
Wales and Switzerland, the other teams in Group A, will play in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Saturday.
Italy appeared energized from the start and dominated possession while Turkey sat back and waited for rare counterattacks.
In the first half alone, Italy produced 13 attempts and Turkey none.
Midway through the first half, Çakır made an acrobatic save to deny Giorgio Chiellini. The Italy captain was left unmarked on a corner and directed a header toward the target before Çakır leaped up, extended his right arm high into the air and pushed the ball over the bar with his fingertips.
Italy protested vehemently for two handballs in the match but Dutch referee Danny Makkelie ruled to play on.
First, Immobile’s shot appeared to be knocked down by a defender’s arm. Then Turkey defender Zeki Çelik stuck out his hand and stopped a cross from Spinazzola.
Çelik himself appeared to feel guilty, quickly pulling his arm behind his body after making contact with the ball. There was a VAR check several moments later but the decision to play on was upheld.
In the next set of group matches, Italy stays in Rome to play Switzerland while Turkey travels to Baku to play Wales.