Female Saudi rally competitors set their sights on Dakar Rally 2022 in Jeddah

Female Saudi rally competitors set their sights on Dakar Rally 2022 in Jeddah
Dania Akeel, the first ever Saudi female to tackle an international rally, stands next to her vehicle in Saudi Arabia for the Sharqiyah International Baja Toyota. (Toyota Rally Media Office/AFP)
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Updated 10 March 2021

Female Saudi rally competitors set their sights on Dakar Rally 2022 in Jeddah

Female Saudi rally competitors set their sights on Dakar Rally 2022 in Jeddah
  • Dania Akeel and Mashael AlObaidan recently took part in the Sharqiyah Baja 2021, the third round of the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas

Dania Akeel is fast becoming one of the most recognizable faces in Saudi Arabian motorsports.

The 32-year-old was one of the presenting guests at the 2021 Dakar Rally in Jeddah at the start of the year. In 2022, she will herself be taking part in the world’s most famous desert race.

Akeel is today already mixing it with the world’s best rally drivers, having taken part in the recent Sharqiyah Baja 2021, the third round of the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, under the supervision of FIA and Saudi Arabia Motor Federation (SAMF).

“The Sharqiyah International Baja Toyota Rally is my personal first race,” Akeel told Arab News. “It is an incentive for me to participate in the 2022 Dakar Rally and a race that introduces me to the future world of racing.”

She has also taken part in the Hail and Northern Region Rally, which is a stage of the International Motorsport Federation’s world rally championship.

Initially it was Akeel’s talent in riding motorcycles that caught the attention of SAMF, which awarded her a Speed Bikes Competition license.

She was keen to thank SAMF Chairman Prince Khalid bin Sultan and Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki for the opportunity and for generally supporting Saudi women’s progress in motorsports.

After gaining her license, her progress was rapid. Riding a Ducati 899, she went on take part in the UAE National SportsBike Super Series grid against more than 15 racers for five rounds.

Unfortunately for Akeel, who holds a master’s degree in international business, an accident in which she suffered several pelvic fractures and an injury to her spine, forced her to put her biking career on hold.

Now she is back and excelling in rally, and having had her big break previously, Akeel is hoping to see more Saudi females embrace car and motorcycle racing, which until recently were a domain exclusive to male drivers.

“I didn’t think that it is only a men’s sport because we live in an era of empowering Saudi women and all opportunities and fields are available for them to prove their capabilities and competence,” she said. “I have not been exposed to any challenges or problems in this regard.”

Having competed in the Sharqiyah rally, she is now set to take part in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on Nov. 6-12, 2021, before starting preparation for the Dakar Rally 2022.

Akeel is not alone in raising the profile of Saudi female rally drivers. Also present at the Sharqiyah Baja was Mashael AlObaidan, who started her motorsporting journey as a dirt bike rider.

“I say this message not only to girls but to boys and everyone in the world, every human, if you love something just go for it,” she said in a video by Reuters taken at Sharqiyah rally. “If you see obstacles, just push, push, push until you do the things you love, and enjoy life.”

AlObaidan last week told Arab News that, as a child, her love of motorsports was sparked by watching women ride motorbikes in Hollywood films. Now she is living the dream herself.

“Adrenaline just rushes in my blood when I race, it is pure happiness,” she said. “Saudi Arabia is doing a great job in a lot of sectors, especially motorsports,” AlObaidan said. “We have the biggest races and that shows you where we are heading. It is a bright future for the sector and I love it.”

Akeel and AlObaidan now have their eyes set on the Dakar Rally 2022, where they will enter as part of a team dubbed the “Sheroes.”

In every sense, they are blazing a trail for other Saudi women to follow.


Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition
Updated 27 min 11 sec ago

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition
  • The 25-year-old will face Eray Samdan of Turkey on Thursday afternoon knowing at least a bronze medal is now guaranteed

A four-match winning streak has seen Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa of Jordan confirm a semifinal place, and a Tokyo 2020 Olympic medal, in the Karate Kumite -67kg competition on Thursday morning at the Nippon Budokan arena in the Japanese capital.

He will now fight Eray Samdan of Turkey in their last four match (from 3pm KSA). While the winners of the semifinals meet in the gold medal match, the losers will each receive a bronze medal.

The 25-year-old Al-Masatfa kicked of his participation in Pool B with an 8-3 win over  Kalvis Kalnins  of Latvia, and followed that up with 7-4 win over the Frenchman Steven da Costa.

After his bout against Angelo Crescenzo was cancelled due to the Italian pulling out of the competition, Al-Masatfa continued his winning run by beating Hamoon Derafshipour of the Refugee Olympic Team 3-0.

The Jordanian rounded up his Pool B matches with 4-1 win over Andres Eduardo Madera Delgado of Venezuela to secure his semi-final spot.

Meanwhile, Ali Elsawy of Egypt, fighting in the Kumite -67 Pool A, lost his opening bout 4-3 to Japan’s Naoto Sago, before losing his second match 4-1 to eventual semifinalist Samdan.

The 26-year-old Egyptian got back to winning way when he narrowly overcame Firdovsi Farzaliyev of Azerbaijan 1-0.

However, Elsawy lost his last Pool A match 3-1 to Darkhan Assadilov of Kazakhstan to exit the competition.


Disappointing morning sees three Arab wrestlers exit Tokyo 2020

Disappointing morning sees three Arab wrestlers exit Tokyo 2020
Updated 10 min 55 sec ago

Disappointing morning sees three Arab wrestlers exit Tokyo 2020

Disappointing morning sees three Arab wrestlers exit Tokyo 2020
  • Amr Reda Ramadan Hussen of Egypt reached the quarterfinal of the men’s freestyle 74kg competition before being knocked out

Thursday morning proved a hugely disappointing one for Arab wrestlers, as two Egyptian athletes and one from Algeria exited Tokyo 2020 at Makuhari Messe Hall in the Japanese capital.

Amr Reda Ramadan Hussen of Egypt started well, winning his men’s freestyle 74 kg round of 16 match 6-1 against Kamil Rybicki of Poland. Unfortunately, that would prove to be the day’s only success for the North African wrestlers.

Hussen went on to lose his quarterfinal 8-5 to Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Kaisanov to miss out on a chance of securing a shot at a medal.

Meanwhile, in the men’s freestyle 125 kg competition, Diaaeldin Kamal Gouda Abdelmottaleb of Egypt and Djahid Berrahal of Algeria were both comprehensively defeated in their round of 16 bouts.

Abdelmottaleb went down 11-0 to Geno Petriashvili of Georgia, while Berrahal lost 6-0 to Egzon Shala of Kosovo.

The results came a day after Egyptian wrestler Mohamed Ibrahim Elsayed won a bronze medal in the men’s Greco-Roman 67 kg event after beating Artrem Surkov of the Russian Olympic Committee at Makuhari Messe Hall.

Elsayed’s compatriot Mohamed Metwally had fallen just short of success, losing his own 87 kg bronze medal match 8-1 to the German Denis Kudla.


New national record not enough for Algerian to win Tokyo 2020 men’s triple jump medal

New national record not enough for Algerian to win Tokyo 2020 men’s triple jump medal
Updated 05 August 2021

New national record not enough for Algerian to win Tokyo 2020 men’s triple jump medal

New national record not enough for Algerian to win Tokyo 2020 men’s triple jump medal
  • Yasser Mohamed Triki finishes fifth with a jump of 17.43, just 4 cm behind the bronze medal winner

A supreme effort by Algerian Yasser Mohamed Triki saw him fall 4cm outside the medal places in the men’s triple jump competition at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Thursday morning.

A jump of 17.43m — a new Algerian record — saw him finish fifth, behind new champion Pedro Pichardo of Portugal (17.98), silver medalist Yaming Zhu of China (17.57), bronze medal winner Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso (17.47), and the American Will Claye, who finished in fourth just 1cm ahead of Triki.

The 24-year-old Triki had finished third with a jump of 17.05 in the qualifying round on Tuesday to book his place in this morning’s final.

His career-best performances came at the 2019 African Games in Rabat, where he won gold in the long jump and silver in the triple jump.


Exclusive: Israeli judoka Raz Hershko lauds ‘brave’ Saudi opponent Tahani Al-Qahtani

Exclusive: Israeli judoka Raz Hershko lauds ‘brave’ Saudi opponent Tahani Al-Qahtani
Updated 04 August 2021

Exclusive: Israeli judoka Raz Hershko lauds ‘brave’ Saudi opponent Tahani Al-Qahtani

Exclusive: Israeli judoka Raz Hershko lauds ‘brave’ Saudi opponent Tahani Al-Qahtani

DUBAI: Two female judokas, one mat, one Olympic contest. That the two athletes competing, Tahani Al-Qahtani and Raz Hershko, happened to be from Saudi Arabia and Israel, made the recent first round of the women’s judo 78-kilogram-class meeting at Tokyo 2020 more than just an ordinary bout.

The two countries have no formal relations and no history of sporting competition to speak of. Furthermore, regional politics and boycotts movements have made it a norm that Arab athletes refuse to take part in any match opposite an Israeli counterpart in fear that this might be interpreted as a form of recognition.

This is why, in an exclusive interview with Arab News, Israeli judoka Hershko had made it a point to praise the bravery of Al-Qahtani. Not only did the Saudi judoka defy popular calls by hatemongers to boycott the match, but she participated knowing very well that Hershko has far more international experience and was clearly the likely winner.

The 23-year-old Israeli said: “I think it is amazing that we both put politics aside to do something we love. I was super excited that anything can happen at the Olympics.

“I knew it was rare for an (Arab) to accept to fight like this, but I was so excited when she accepted. Both of us put politics to the side and did what we loved together in the match.”

Algerian Fethi Nourine and Sudan’s Mohammed Abdalrasool had withdrawn from the judo men’s plus-73-kg competition rather than face the possibility of taking on an Israeli athlete. But Al-Qahtani chose to compete against Hershko, a decision that drew praise from Japanese media and prompted a wave of support from high-profile figures and sports fans in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qahtani was the last of the Kingdom’s 33 athletes to confirm her place at Tokyo 2020, her wild card selection making her only the second female judoka from the country to participate in the Olympics since the 2012 London Games. The two women had walked out side-by-side onto the mat ahead of what turned out to be a tough match for the inexperienced 22-year-old Saudi. As the fight progressed, Hershko racked up the points, eventually beating Al-Qahtani 11-0.

“It was a tough fight in the beginning. She (Al-Qahtani) was brave to take on the fight despite pressure from hatemongers about her decision to fight me,” Hershko added. The victor pointed out that she and Al-Qahtani were simply human beings, females from different countries, playing in a match. “I don’t think it was different from fighting someone from the US or South Africa. It was great that Al-Qahtani bravely accepted and let politics stay out of the picture.”

After Al-Qahtani’s loss, some questioned whether the pressure of the situation had affected her performance.

While Al-Qahtani was not available for comment, Hershko noted the importance of the match and how sport could be a uniting force at a time when politics in the Middle East continued to be a hot topic, even after several countries had normalized relations with Israel.

“Politics has nothing to do with it, it was a good match,” said Hershko.

In a statement after the bout, the International Judo Federation said: “This game shows that sports can transcend political and external influences.”

Al-Qahtani’s courageous performance on and off the judo mat demonstrated a notable shift in Saudi Arabia, and an openness to rise above current geopolitics in the realm of sports and culture, both avenues that could bring people from opposing nations together.

On whether she would accept an invitation to compete in Saudi Arabia, Hershko said: “Of course, why not?”


Qatar beats Italy to reach men’s beach volleyball semifinals in Tokyo

Qatar beats Italy to reach men’s beach volleyball semifinals in Tokyo
Updated 04 August 2021

Qatar beats Italy to reach men’s beach volleyball semifinals in Tokyo

Qatar beats Italy to reach men’s beach volleyball semifinals in Tokyo
  • Duo of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan are now on a five-match winning streak ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Russian Olympic Committee team

TOKYO: Qatar has reached the Tokyo 2020 beach volleyball men’s semifinal after beating Italy in straight sets at Shiokaze Park on Wednesday evening.
The Qatari duo of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan put on an impressive display to defeat the Italian team of Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) in the quarterfinal.
The Qatari athletes, both 26, will now take on Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on Thursday afternoon (from 4pm KSA).
On Sunday, Younousse and Tijan defeated the US 2-1 (14-21, 21-19,15-11) in the round of 16 to reach today’s last-eight match.
Qatar’s beach volleyball team is now on a five-match winning streak at Tokyo 2020.
The started their Olympic campaign on July 25 by beating Switzerland 2-1 (21-17, 21-16) in their preliminary round — Group C match.
They followed that up with two more group victories; a 2-1 win over Italy three days later, and a 2-0 against the US last Friday.