JEDDAH: Female participation in sport in Saudi Arabia has shot up by almost 150 percent since 2015, the Kingdom’s sports minister revealed.
Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said far-reaching changes as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan and the influence of Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan have been major factors in contributing to the success.
The minister hailed the princess as a great role model who had inspired her peers and country
through her sporting achieve- ments, playing a crucial part in promoting mass participation in sports and carrying out important work on the board and as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) women and sports committee.
Princess Reema recently took part in the first Gender Equity and Women Leadership Forum, organized by the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) and the International Taekwondo Federation, that targeted women’s welfare in sports.
Following her lead, many female achievers have been elected as members of international sports organizations.
These have included Princess Haifa bint Mohammed, who became chair of the women’s committee of the Arab Union, and Princess Reham bint Saif Al-Islam who was appointed as a member of the Arab Swimming Federa- tion’s women’s committee.
The Kingdom’s first female boxing coach, Rasha Al-Khamis, became a member of the women’s committee for the Asian boxing organization, Abrar Bukhari sat on the women’s committee of the Asian Taekwondo Federation, and Sarah Al-Fayez was elected a member of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) media committee.
Asma Al-Yamani, meanwhile, became a member of the World Tennis Tour Committee, Aseel Al-Hamad was nominated a member of the Women in Motor- sports Committee at the Interna- tional Motorsports Federation, and Haya Al-Dossary took on the role as a marketing committee member for West Asia of the International Table Tennis Federation.
In addition, Adwaa Al-Arifi became a member of the AFC and Arab Football Confederation, and Dr. Razan Baker was appointed chairperson of the International Bowling Federation’s women in sports committee.
Saudi sportswomen have also notched up around 100 medals in events at regional and interna- tional levels.
Fencing topped the list for Saudi female sporting achievements. The sport’s federation has been one of the leaders in investing in the training of women of all ages, with academies in Jeddah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province.
Fencing has delivered around 29 medals including four bronzes in the epee event at the 2016 Arab Games held in Riyadh. In 2018, Saudi fencers bagged one silver and three bronze medals at the Juniors Arab Fencing Champion- ship in Jordan, and in the same year they brought home a bronze from the Arab Fencing Championship in Tunisia.
In Kuwait’s 2019 junior fencing championship, they scooped one gold, one silver, and five bronzes, and collected a gold and two bronzes in the Asian Qualifying Round of Fencing Champion- ship in the same year in Riyadh.
In 2020, they won two silver medals at the Arab Women Sports Tournament in Sharjah, and one silver and two bronze medals in Manama’s Junior and Youth Fencing Championship.
At the Virtual Confederation Championship, the women’s fencing team secured single gold, silver, and bronze medals.
Second place went to the judokas with 15 medals, all won in 2019. Two golds, two silvers, and eight bronzes were from the Estonia International Judo Championship; a gold, silver, and bronze came in the West Asian Judo Championship.
Not to be outdone in third place were the taekwondo ladies with one gold, two silvers, and four bronzes from the 2019 and 2020 GCC and Arab Taekwondo championships.
Tied at fourth place with four medals each were the female equestrians and weightlifters.
Equestrienne Dalma Malhas gave Saudi Arabia its first bronze medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore. Riders also collected two more bronzes and one silver at the Sharjah tournament in 2020.
The women weightlifters snatched their two golds, one silver, and one bronze in Gulf tournaments and the West Asian Championship.
Other sports where Saudi women broke into the medal column were: Rowing, through Kariman Abujadail, who won a gold medal at the Gulf Rowing tournament in Sharjah in 2020; boxing courtesy of Najd Fahad with a gold at the virtual Univer- sity World Cup in 2020 and Dona Alghamdi with another gold at the International Leaders Champi- onship in 2018 in Jordan; kick boxing through Zahra Alqurashi, who claimed first place at the International Clubs Champion- ship in mixed martial arts in 2019 in Jordan; and archery, from its women’s team that clinched bronze during the Sharjah Arab Women Sports tournament in 2020.
Elsewhere, the Saudi women football leagues were inaugurated, and saw participation of 10 teams last November in three cities. The football federation, in collaboration with the Leaders Development Institute, offered coaching courses to create oppor- tunities for Saudi women who were keen to become professional football coaches without the need to travel abroad.
The Saudi Archery Federation also launched a tournament featuring more than 25 women archers.