Saudi women ride into history with ‘dream’ home debut

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13 Saudi female jockeys participate for the first time in the Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (SPA)
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13 Saudi female jockeys participate for the first time in the Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (SPA)
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Updated 14 December 2019

Saudi women ride into history with ‘dream’ home debut

  • Olympic and World Cup qualification points are up for grabs in the second edition of the festival
  • 13 Saudi female jockeys are participating in the qualifier, set for Dec. 14 and Dec. 19-21

RIYADH: Saudi women riders are saddling up to make history when they compete side by side with their male counterparts for the first time as part of this month’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival.

Olympic and World Cup qualification points are up for grabs in the second edition of the festival being held on Dec. 14 and Dec. 19-21.

However, more significantly, women riders will compete in the same arena as their male counterparts for the first time in the Kingdom’s history.

Over the course of two weekends, the festival will feature 120 riders, 150 grooms, 50 officials, 300 companions and trainers, 250 club members and 150 crew.

The 13 Saudi women competitors are excited that the moment to shine on their home turf has finally arrived.

“This is a dream,” said 18-year-old Lama Al-Ajmi. “It’s an international four-star competition and I will finally get to represent my country on home soil.




13 Saudi female jockeys participate for the first time in the Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (SPA)

“For me, this is the start. This is the start for all of us. I want to be on top and the Olympics are my dream,” she added.

Sultanah Abar, 32, a graphic designer and former UN employee, will compete alongside her brother Abdelkarim in the festival — their first time riding together in an international competition in their homeland.

“I started riding when I was four years old,” she said. “But until now I’ve only been able to compete abroad. Finally, we can compete at home and it makes me proud.” 

Wafa Al-Hasoun, 24, also voiced her excitement at being able to join an international competition in her country. “We used to watch, now we participate and look to win. We’re very excited to finally be part of this,” she said.

The equestrian festival is part of the wider Diriyah Season, a month of major sports events such as Formula E, top-class men’s tennis and the recent world heavyweight title fight The Clash On The Dunes.

The Diriyah UNESCO World Heritage site will also stage performances from some of the globe’s biggest music artists, including Swedish House Mafia and Calvin Harris, as part of the festival.


Super-sub Cavani inspires Manchester United fightback

Updated 30 November 2020

Super-sub Cavani inspires Manchester United fightback

  • United climbed to seventh place, two points adrift of the Champions League places

SOUTHAMPTON: Edinson Cavani inspired Manchester United’s thrilling fightback from two goals down to snatch a dramatic 3-2 win against Southampton on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were facing a dismal defeat after first half goals from Jan Bednarek and James Ward-Prowse put Southampton in control at St. Mary’s.

Adding to Solskjaer’s problems, United lost goalkeeper David de Gea to a knee injury at halftime.

But Uruguay striker Cavani sparked United’s escape act after coming on at the interval.

Cavani set up Bruno Fernandes to reduce the deficit and the former Paris Saint-Germain star grabbed the equalizer from his teammate’s deflected shot.

The 33-year-old netted again in the final moments as his third goal since signing as a free agent in October extended United’s winning to four games in all competitions.

United climbed to seventh place, two points adrift of the Champions League places, after setting a club record of eight successive away Premier League wins.

It was exactly the kind of influential display Solskjaer was hoping for from Cavani when he moved for him after United’s failed pursuit of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.

Written off as a panic buy in some quarters, Cavani proved his age should be no barrier to making an impact in the Premier League.

He is only the second player to be directly involved in three goals in a Premier League game after coming on as a substitute for United since Solskjaer scored four against Nottingham Forest in 1999.

United had started brightly and Mason Greenwood rounded Saints keeper Alex McCarthy, only to shoot into the side-netting with the empty goal at his mercy.

Fernandes needed treatment after a heavy challenge from Oriel Romeu, but he almost exacted immediate revenge when his deflected effort clipped the outside of the post.

Southampton took the lead against the run of play in the 23rd minute.

Ward-Prowse curled a corner to the near post and Bednarek got in front of Marcus Rashford to glance his header past De Gea from close range.

Kyle Walker-Peters nearly caught out De Gea with a low drive from an acute angle that skimmed across goal and struck the far post.

United were almost gifted an equalizer when McCarthy’s woeful pass was seized on by Greenwood, but the keeper redeemed himself with a brilliant double save, repelling the teenager’s shot and then blocking Fernandes’s follow-up.

Ward-Prowse doubled Southampton’s lead in the 33rd minute.

Taking aim from the left side of the United area, Ward-Prowse curled a superb free kick over the wall and past De Gea, whose despairing attempt to claw it out sent him clattering into the post.

David Beckham is the only English player to have scored more direct free kicks than Ward-Prowse’s nine in the Premier League era.

De Gea might have felt he could have done better having got a hand to it, but Dean Henderson made his first Premier League appearance for United when he replaced the injured Spaniard at half-time.

It was Cavani’s introduction that proved decisive after a curious late arrival on the pitch as he sorted out his boots.

Cavani linked up with Fernandes to reduce the deficit in the 59th minute as his cross reached the Portugal midfielder, who swivelled to fire home from 10 yards.

Since his United debut in January, Fernandes has been involved in a league-high 25 goals, scoring 15 and providing 10 assists.