JEDDAH: Tarek Hamdi’s heroic silver medal at Tokyo 2020 and the third place finish by the Saudi women’s karate team in the kata competition of the International Karate1 Premier League tournament held in Cairo recently have ushered in a new era of achievement and progress in the sport, the president of the Saudi Karate Federation has said.
Dr. Musharraf Al-Shehri told Arab News that the high-profile performances of Hamdi at the Olympics in particular “brought attention” to karate in the Kingdom and will help spur further development of the sport.
“The medal sent out a message,” Al-Shehri said. “And the message is ‘yes we can — we can compete on the biggest stage.’”
Hamdi and the successful women’s team will prove a source of inspiration for aspiring athletes to take interest in karate and other sports, he added.
“We are very happy to see Saudi Arabia gaining such a reputation in karate,” said Al-Shehri. “This confirms that we are on the right path in the the sport as per the vision engineered to develop it, enabling the Kingdom’s champions to produce honorable results.”
Al-Shehri started his career as a karateka and won the Saudi Championship seven times. He has also represented the Kingdom’s national team in many regional and international tournaments as a player, referee, and was chairman of the West Asian Karate Referees Committee, member of the Asian and Arab Referees Committee, advisor to the Athletic Federation of Saudi Universities.
“Today is one of the most important moments in Saudi karate history,” he said. It is a “game-changing moment” that will open sport up to more people than ever before, “creating new heroes and fueling future success,” he added.
“It feels like a sporting revolution and the start of something new. We want the people of Saudi Arabia to feel this change, share it, celebrate it, connect to our athletes and support them on their inspirational journeys.”
However, Al-Shehri said that the transformation is a result of the hard work of all previous federations, and not just the current one.
“We are continuing what the previous administrations started, but for us as a new management, we hope to bring the level of karate sports to the highest level,” he added.
“What Tarek achieved left a true imprint of Saudi karate and put the name of the Kingdom on the highest platforms in the world.”
He added that the rise in standards is down to the policies of the Saudi Karate Federation and its successful plans to develop the sport, as well as the full support of the authorities responsible for Saudi sports. The federation is now hoping to compete for more medals at the 2021 World Karate Championships to be held in Dubai from Nov. 16-21.
Al-Shehri thanked everyone who has worked with him during his tenure as president, including administrators, players, coaches, referees, members and colleagues of former members of the board.
He also praised the unequivocal support of Saudi Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz Al-Faisal, and hailed the government’s decision to include the martial art in school sporting curricula.
“I see that the future of karate is great in the Kingdom, especially in light of the great support of the generous leadership of all sports,” he added.
Speaking to Arab News at the Second Kingdom Open Championship for girls aged under 15 in Jeddah, Al-Shehri lauded the performance of the Saudi women’s team in Cairo.
“Though it was the first participation for the women’s team at the international level, the team managed to achieve a bronze medal in Cairo,” he said. “This is very promising for the future of the Saudi female team.”
With the rising popularity of karate as a sport, Al-Shehri expects participation to surpass 100,000 people at all levels as more local competitions are established.
“In fact, I think that the number is small compared to the size of the Kingdom, and I hope that the game will spread more and we will see more heroes like Tarek Hamdi, and that the competition will be high,” he said.