Riyadh: A Saudi mom-of-two has been getting a piste of the action as the first woman to represent the Kingdom in skiing.
Sharifa Al-Sudairi hit the headlines after successfully competing in the recent Ski Dubai event.
The Jeddah-born 35-year-old found herself up against 25 top skiers from around the world in the competition but still managed to secure second, fourth, and fifth places in different categories.
She is among a growing band of Saudi sporting talents making a name for themselves as part of the Kingdom’s push to promote sport for all, host major international events, and compete on the global stage.
Brought up in the Red Sea port city, Al-Sudairi went to a boarding school in Switzerland and attended universities in London where she gained a bachelor’s degree in fine art and a master’s degree in art and business.
Supported by her family in her dream to become a top skier, she told Arab News that her father had always encouraged her to be sporty and independent.
She said: “I have always enjoyed being active and have taken part in many different sports while growing up including tennis, basketball, surfing and, of course, skiing.”
Al-Sudairi learned to ski at a young age while on family holidays in Switzerland, and she now considers her participation in the sport more as a passion than a career.
“Skiing for me encompasses all of the things that make me happy; you get to be active and healthy, while in the majesty of nature.
“Skiing on beautiful white slopes in incredible surroundings reminds me how dramatic and wonderful Earth is.
“But what started as a hobby and favorite pastime, evolved into me taking this on professionally,” she added.
She was able to further develop her skills through training sessions with several race instructors at Swiss ski resorts and was recently introduced to the president of the Saudi Winter Sports Federation, Ahmad Al-Tabbaa, and the organization’s vice president, Rabab Mahassen, who provided support and encouraged her to join the Saudi ski team.
The Ski Dubai tournament was Al-Sudairi’s first official competition success having previously raced and won in smaller community events in Switzerland.
She said: “I won fourth and fifth place in the general races and also managed to get second place in one of the categories.”
The competition was organized by the UAE’s Ski Federation and the International Ski and Snowboard Federation, the world’s leading governing body for the sport.
“Given my love for my country and for skiing and all the support from the federation, I decided to pursue this on a professional basis,” she added.
Al-Sudairi said she was proud and honored to be the first Saudi woman to represent the Kingdom in Alpine skiing, describing it as a way to serve her country in times of positive change.
“It also means I get to play a role, among other incredible women that I admire, in being part of a movement that puts women at center stage in Saudi Arabia.
“This will hopefully encourage a whole new generation of women in the country to achieve their full potential and follow their dreams,” she added.
And she hopes to be a source of inspiration for others to follow their ambitions.
“I think this is an incredible moment in Saudi history and for me, especially in the field of sports.
“I am thrilled to see the many sporting events that the country has been hosting; we have seen an increase in interest in sports among Saudi citizens and especially among youth,” she said.