JEDDAH: The Saudi Winter Sports Federation (SWSF) has revealed it is on the lookout for young Saudi sports talents with the aim of turning them into Olympic-standard athletes.
This week, the SWSF launched a nationwide talent campaign specifically seeking young Saudis who can represent Saudi Arabia at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.
“We are seeking stars who have athletic ability, are talented, fast, powerful and have a desire to push their boundaries to represent their country,” said newly elected President of Saudi Arabia Winter Sports Federation, Ahmed Shaher Al-Tabbaa. “That’s exactly what we need in the hope of having representatives at the winter Olympic in 2022.”
Al-Tabbaa said the SWSF is seeking serious Saudi skiers and snowboarders who have already been training with a club or coach.
“We have been overwhelmed by the interest in winter sports in general and skiing and snowboarding especially,” he told Arab News. “It is worth noting however, that we have 15 winter sports under our umbrella that have also generated lots of interest. The flyer that went out was only for skiing and snowboarding.
“We received more than 100 applications to participate for the different alpine disciplines and I have to say we were impressed at the level of proficiency amongst our countrymen and women,” Al-Tabbaa added. “However, we have selected only eight participants that we’re hoping will start undergoing rigorous training programs in the run up to the Olympics.”
According to Al-Tabbaa, the other sports under the umbrella of the federation are alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross country, biathalon, skeleton, luge, curling, speed skating, short track speed skate, figure skating, ice hockey, ski jumping, Freestyle skiing, bobsleigh and Nordic combined.
“Initially our focus is going to be on the ice sports that we get to currently play in Saudi Arabia and the snow sports will have to wait until we have set up specialized winter camps,” he said.
“Ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating and curling are our focus now. For ice hockey alone, we currently have three men’s team two women’s teams and one team made up of non-Saudis.”
Al-Tabbaa said that the biggest challenge facing the federation is providing natural or man-landscaped terrain.
“We don’t have snow or ice,” he said. “Therefore, I would call on the private sector to provide it for us especially as we are a new young federation that is eager to engage with the private sector.”
The SWSF has recently called on the services of Czech international coach Petr Vecko to help start a training program for ice hockey in Jeddah. With 10 years’ worth of experience, Vecko has previously participated in a number of international and local championships in Australia and the US.
The federation also established a scholarship program for winter athletes to train in France in order to develop their skills in their respective sports.