Saudi sports chief ‘stunned, awestruck’ by Kingdom’s take up of lockdown fitness initiative

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SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal has been left “stunned” and “awestruck” by the Kingdom’s response to an online lockdown fitness initiative. (SPA/File Photo)
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Updated 24 June 2020

Saudi sports chief ‘stunned, awestruck’ by Kingdom’s take up of lockdown fitness initiative

  • Online home exercise campaign was launched to help maintain physical, mental wellness during COVID-19 health crisis

DUBAI: The president of a Saudi sports organization has been left “stunned” and “awestruck” by the Kingdom’s response to an online lockdown fitness initiative.

Tens of thousands of citizens have been taking part in the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) campaign — Baytak Nadeek (Your Home, Your Gym) — launched with the aim of helping to maintain the physical fitness, mental health, and wellness of residents confined to their homes due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

For three months, a series of online fitness classes and gaming initiatives have proved highly popular, particularly “Move to Game,” which allows individuals and teams to compete against each other by tallying up a total of steps taken at home each day through walking, running, or exercise groups.

SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, said: “At the SFA, we keep mentioning that our strength is in numbers, and that’s what just manifested itself with ‘Move to Game.’ We had just crossed this massive benchmark of 74,000 users and 2 billion steps, and we asked our players to invite their co-workers, friends, and family to join ‘Move to Game’ as a celebration.”

The virtual tournament, merging a love of gaming and physical fitness, was launched jointly by the SFA and the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS).

“I am stunned and extremely proud to say that together with the SAFEIS, we have just crossed 4 billion steps generated by 144,000 users,” Prince Khaled added.

“I’m awestruck by the power of our healthy and active community, and I watch their Instagram stories daily. I loved the Father’s Day walks with dad that our community members were posting; everyone out there – keep tagging us, we see you and we love it.”

The digital nature of the program, with steps being registered through smart phones and watches, proved a winner with an increasingly tech-savvy population, and one phase of the ‘Move to Game’ competition that greatly increased the activation’s social media visibility was specially developed for community sports groups (CSGs).

Through the contest, a prize pool of SR60,000 ($16,000) was awarded to nine winning teams from throughout the Kingdom, which clocked 29.6 million steps over five days.

Another SFA success story has been its first virtual Women’s Fitness Festival, an online event streamed via YouTube and on the festival’s dedicated website from June 11 to 13. The program addressed a range of topics through three different leadership panels and showcased a number of workouts and meal preparation sessions.

Festival participants were made up of women leaders across various health and wellness-related sectors, and included fitness professionals, athletes, nutritionists, therapists, and trainers.

The Women’s Fitness Festival was staged as part of the SFA’s focus on increasing health and wellness across all segments of Saudi society through education, events, activations, and public awareness campaigns.

Each of the festival’s three evenings began with a session led by Saudi fitness trainer and lifestyle coach Haya Sawan titled “Mum and Me,” that aimed to foster a generational love of physical activity and positive family fitness values.

International award-winning Egyptian athlete, Manal Rostom, staged a Nike training session giving tips on technique and encouraging viewers to be mindful with periodic breathing breaks.

Over the course of the three days, several additional physical activity seminars covering high-intensity interval training, dance, calisthenics, and circuit exercises were presented by Nelly Attar, Amal Baatia, Tracy Harmoush, and Najia Alfadl, with viewers encouraged to take part at home.

The workout sessions were designed to be accessible to all fitness levels and Nike provided all of the athletes with workout attire and footwear for the women-centric event.

Each evening, the festival closed with Hatoon Kadi, a Saudi opinion leader and performing artist, moderating a series of discussions that included successful female role models such as Lama Basri, Dr. Mezna Al-Marzooqi, Mona Shahab, Raha Moharrak, Reema Juffali, and several fitness trainers.

The panelists discussed the three primary topics of sport and fitness, mothers in sport, and breaking the barriers in female sports, while also sharing their thoughts on the challenges faced by women in achieving their goals.

Thomas outduels Koepka for WGC win, world No. 1 ranking

Justin Thomas
Updated 03 August 2020

Thomas outduels Koepka for WGC win, world No. 1 ranking

WASHINGTON: Justin Thomas reclaimed the world No. 1  ranking on Sunday by outdueling defending champion Brooks Koepka down the stretch to win the WGC St Jude Invitational by three strokes.

Thomas, who began the day four shots off the lead, fired a 5-under  65 final round to thwart Koepka’s repeat bid and take the title at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee, on a 72-hole total of 13-under 267.
“It means a lot, especially with how I felt like I did it,” Thomas said. “In the past, I struggled with coming from behind. I got wrapped up in how far I was behind and how many people.”
The 27-year-old American became the third-youngest US PGA Tour player in the past 60 years to reach 13 career wins, behind Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus and just ahead of Rory McIlroy.
Koepka, who seeks a third consecutive PGA Championship victory next week in San Francisco, closed with a double bogey after finding water off the 18th tee and slid into sharing second on 270 with US compatriots Daniel Berger and Phil Mickelson and England’s Tom Lewis.
Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner, jumped from third past McIlroy and top-ranked Spaniard Jon Rahm to retake world No. 1, a spot he held for four weeks in 2018.
“It was a hard-fought day, but it meant a lot,” Thomas said.
Three weeks ago, Thomas squandered a three-stroke lead with three holes to play, two bogeys dropping him into a playoff with Collin Morikawa that he lost.
“I feel like I learned a lot from that,” he said. “I just didn’t get ahead of myself anytime those last two, three holes, where I felt like my mind was kind of wandering and maybe thinking about winning.”
“I basically just told myself to shut up and figure out what you’re doing because I could lose that tournament just as easily as I won it.
“I was really proud of myself to stay in the moment and get it done,” he said.
A back-nine shootout saw Americans Koepka, Thomas, Berger and 54-hole leader Brendon Todd deadlocked with Lewis for the lead on 11-under, while Australian Jason Day, American Chez Reavie and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick were on 10-under.
Koepka sank a birdie putt from just inside 10 feet at the par-4 13th to seize the lead at 12-under.
Thomas found the left rough at 15 but blasted his approach to six feet and made the birdie putt to match Koepka for the lead.
Thomas then sent his tee shot way right at the par-5 16th, but recovered by blasting to the low rough just left of the fairway and dropped his approach three feet from the cup, tapping in a birdie to claim the lead alone at 13-under.
“I got unbelievably lucky,” Thomas said. “Somehow, that calmed me down. You usually only get lucky like that when you win the tournament.
“Luckily, I hung on and stayed patient and positive.”
Koepka scrambled on 16 but missed an eight-foot par putt to fall two adrift, only to sink a 40-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th to move back within a stroke as he walked to the 18th tee.
But Koepka sent his tee shot into the water and put his third into a greenside bunker, sealing the victory for Thomas.
Mickelson matched a third-place effort at Pebble Beach for his best result of the season, as the world’s top golfers set their sights on TPC Harding Park and next week’s first major tournament of a year in which COVID-19 has played havoc with the schedule.