Dakar Rally’s only female winner excited to teach Saudi girls

Jutta Kleinschmidt is the only female winner in the 42-year history of the Dakar Rally. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 16 January 2020

Dakar Rally’s only female winner excited to teach Saudi girls

  • The former off-road racer told Arab News that she is excited to come back next year

JEDDAH: Jutta Kleinschmidt, one in a line of unsung heroes helping run Saudi Arabia Dakar 2020, is looking forward to returning to the Kingdom for the 2021 race.

Nicknamed “Miss Dakar” after becoming the rally’s only female winner in 2001, the Cologne-born veteran of the bike and car categories has been part of the famous endurance race for over three decades and on three continents.

The former off-road racer told Arab News that she is excited to come back next year. “I spoke to Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal (president of the Saudi Automotive and Motorcycle Federation), and he told me that he wants to do something for women, especially with regards to racing in the Dakar Rally,” Kleinschmidt said.

“I also know that Dakar is starting an academy here, and with the prince’s help, we’re looking into the possibility of starting a class for women to teach them racing. I’m very happy to be one of the instructors.”

Having performed in the Dakar Rally in Africa, South America and now in Saudi Arabia, Kleinschmidt said: “I was quite surprised by the beautiful nature when I came to Saudi Arabia. This country has so many different landscapes. That it’s possible to find everything in one country was very surprising.”

Kleinschmidt added that her experience with the local culture also proved positive. “I didn’t feel during the event that I had to behave any differently. You always respect the culture of the country you’re in, but I had no trouble whatsoever doing what I do anywhere else,” she said.

Of her milestone victory in 2001 and its impact on motorsport in terms of gender equality, Kleinschmidt said: “It shows that women can achieve everything. I loved this sport and wanted to compete, and I never thought about my gender in that process. I was simply a competitor against others, and I wanted to win. I felt that there was no reason I could not achieve that.”

She added: “This is important because of the predominant belief that women aren’t as good as men because of the difference in physical strength, but excelling in motorsport involves many other skills, and it’s not as important to be muscular. This is one of the things I like about motorsport; it’s one of the very few sports that are mixed.”

When asked about returning to Saudi Arabia for Dakar 2021, Kleinschmidt said: “Definitely. There’s no question about that.”


UEFA warn clubs risk Champions League exclusion if seasons are not completed

UEFA and the European Club Association said that they were working on the possibility of playing on into July and August if need be. (AP/File)
Updated 04 April 2020

UEFA warn clubs risk Champions League exclusion if seasons are not completed

PARIS: UEFA and Europe’s top clubs have stated their determination that the current football season should be played to a conclusion and threatened that teams may be excluded from the next Champions League if their domestic competitions are ended prematurely.
In a joint letter released late on Thursday, UEFA, the European Club Association (ECA), and the European Leagues body representing nearly a thousand clubs in 29 countries, said that they were working on the possibility of playing on into July and August if need be.
The Champions League and Europa League — both of which are frozen in the last-16 stage — could be completed once the domestic seasons are finished, and “stopping competitions should really be the last resort after acknowledging that no calendar alternative would allow to conclude the season.”
The joint response came after the Belgian Pro League announced on Thursday that it recommended declaring the season over with the present table accepted as final.
It is the first European league to take such a measure, although more could follow.
That means Club Brugge would in theory go straight into the next Champions League group stage, but UEFA, the ECA and the European Leagues indicated that they may be barred from continental competition if the Belgian league decision is finalized.
“It is of paramount importance that even a disruptive event like this epidemic does not prevent our competitions from being decided on the field, in accordance with their rules and that all sporting titles are awarded on the basis of results,” the joint letter said.
“We are confident that football can restart in the months to come — with conditions that will be dictated by public authorities — and believe that any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified.
“Since participation in UEFA club competitions is determined by the sporting result achieved at the end of a full domestic competition, a premature termination would cast doubts about the fulfilment of such condition.”
The letter concluded: “UEFA reserves the right to assess the entitlement of clubs to be admitted to the 2020/21 UEFA club competitions.”
The Belgian Pro League said it had had “constructive” discussions with UEFA on Friday in which it “contested any approach which would force a league to continue in the current health crisis.”
It has called for a “varied approach” based on the specifics of individual leagues and countries.
UEFA has set up two working groups to devise a way for European football to get out of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.