Saudi’s rising pole vault star Hussain Al-Hizam seeks a medal at 2024 Olympics

Saudi’s rising pole vault star Hussain Al-Hizam seeks a medal at 2024 Olympics
Saudi pole vault star Hussain Al-Hizam is eyeing Olympic success in Paris next year. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 July 2023
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Saudi’s rising pole vault star Hussain Al-Hizam seeks a medal at 2024 Olympics

Saudi’s rising pole vault star Hussain Al-Hizam seeks a medal at 2024 Olympics
  • The 25-year-old from Jubail is back on track after several career-threatening injuries

From breaking world records at the age of 13 to severe back injuries at 15, Saudi pole vaulter Hussain Al-Hizam has sacrificed most of his childhood to win medals for his country.

Through every setback, Al-Hizam, 25, has grown more committed to pole vaulting and is determined to make up for lost time after two career-threatening injuries and missing out on Tokyo 2020.

Born and raised in the Kingdom, the Jubail local started in the event when he was just 8 years old. He was encouraged by his father — former decathlete and current decathlon coach Asim Al-Hizam — to pursue a path in track and field.

He tried his hand at many sports from a young age, but pole vaulting was where he excelled. Al-Hizam left home when he was just 11 to train and compete around the world, breaking numerous world records from the age of 13.

Things would go wrong for him at 15 when he was struck down by a back injury while competing in Germany. Al-Hizam missed the pit and fell from a height of 5 meters onto the concrete surface.

Prince Nawaf Al-Saud, then-president of the Saudi Arabia Track and Field Federation, had the 15-year-old sent to Los Angeles for treatment.

“I am super fortunate to have the support system that I have, my dad has played a huge role in my career, and he has made everything happen for me,” Al-Hizam said. “The Saudi Track and Field Federation with the help of Prince Nawaf has fully supported me all these years and as a student I was also privileged to receive full scholarship support from my government for university.”

Al-Hizam went on to train for the next 18 months at the University of California, Los Angeles. He then enrolled at the University of Kansas where he achieved the highest level of success in college athletics by winning the indoor National Collegiate Athletic Association title in 2018.

Other early international success included second place at the 2013 Arab Championships, first at the 2013 Asian Youth Games, and fourth in both the 2014 Youth Olympic Games and 2014 Asian Junior Championships.

As an adult he came first at the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games, first at the 2021 Arab Championships, and second at the 2021 Islamic Solidarity Games. He also won gold at the 2023 Asian Indoor Championships in Kazakhstan, and achieved a commendable 14th at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in the US.

However, sporting greatness comes at a cost, and Al-Hizam has missed out on most of his childhood competing and training abroad.

“Growing up in Saudi and then leaving all my friends and family to travel to Europe and train at the age of 11, really wasn’t my favorite thing to do,” he said. “I couldn’t communicate with Europeans, the language barrier kept me from connecting with people, I was quite isolated. So, when I moved to LA (Los Angeles), because I spoke English, I was finally able to make a life.

“In Europe it was more just training, it was all I could do, it wasn’t an ideal situation for a kid. It wasn’t until I moved to the US where I got some balance in my life, making friends with other kids but due to the distance I rarely went home, maybe three times in seven years.”

Al-Hizam has based himself in Italy this year and tries to fly home when he can. One of the major sacrifices made over the last 13 years is being away from his family and is the key indicator of how serious he is about reaching the pinnacle of this sport, which is an Olympic medal.

Al-Hizam has three major events left this year to get him to Paris 2024. This is the Asian Championships in Thailand next week, the World Championships in Budapest next month and — the major Olympic-qualifying event — the Asian Games in China in September.

Even with all his achievements from the age of 9, Al-Hizam sees getting to the Olympics as only the first step — a medal in Paris would be his ultimate athletic goal. And although he has overcome some major obstacles in the last 10 years, he is most proud of the person he has become through this sport.

“It is tough, even until this day, from being at a place in 2019 when I had such momentum and was at a world level, ready to go pro; to then break my ankle,” he said of his second major injury.

“I had to dig deep to find my way back, you must do whatever it takes mentally, physically and emotionally to get stronger than you were before. It is about finding your way back. My motto now is any challenge you go through, is an opportunity to grow.”

“I don’t have one moment that I am particularly proud of, as I am more proud of the person I have become from this sport,” Al-Hizam added. “I see people that I have known from a while ago going to their 9-to-5 jobs and feeling stuck. Whereas I am doing the thing I love every day, and the feeling of freedom that comes with doing that, most days when I wake up, I know why I am waking up and why I am going to work. I love that feeling.”


Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans

Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans
Updated 13 April 2024
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Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans

Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans
  • Sajah Bazaar to headline 2024 Saudi Open fan zone at Riyadh Golf Club
  • Fan zone will provide food, drinks from around the world

RIYADH: Visitors to this year’s Saudi Open golf tournament will also be able to enjoy live music and fireworks at the Riyadh Golf Club.
The four-day championship starts on Wednesday and as well as top-class sport promises plenty of family fun.
LIV Golf captain Henrik Stenson will headline the field, which also includes some of the leading players on the Asian Tour, like last year’s Saudi Open winner Denwit Boriboonsub.
Each day of the tournament, from 4-11 p.m., visitors will be able to visit the Sajah Bazaar where they can buy local goods like textiles and jewelry.
There will also be lots to do in the fan zone, including golf driving and putting challenges, Panna soccer, Teqball, food and drink from around the world and a children’s area.
There are also some great prizes up for grabs, with Al-Rajhi Takaful donating 50 car insurance vouchers worth SR1,000 ($267), while two lucky ticket holders will see their general admission tickets upgraded to hospitality tickets and get the chance to watch world class golf from the best seats in the house.
Two winners will be randomly selected daily, while each person who takes a photo of a golfer on the Al-Rajhi teebox and posts it to social media with #Golf&More will be entered into the prize draw to win car insurance.
The fan zone opens on Wednesday and Thursday from 1-11 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.


ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham

ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham
Updated 12 April 2024
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ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham

ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham
  • Federation was seeking to promote camel sports globally
  • Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, minister of sports and chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, visited pavilion

RIYADH: The International Camel Racing Federation has concluded its participation in the SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit that took place in Birmingham from April 7-11.
The ICRF was seeking to promote camel sports around the world by being present at the event.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the minister of sports and chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, visited the federation’s pavilion on Tuesday, where he received an award that was presented to the SOPC.
Prince Fahad bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, ICRF’s president and SOPC’s vice president; Dr. Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee; and Robin Mitchell, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, were present at the award presentation.
Prince Fahad said: “We are pleased with what the federation’s pavilion presented at this summit, which around 1,500 leaders and key decision-makers from over 120 international federations attended.”
Participation at the event helped publicize camel sports which, according to the ICRF’s president, have a large role in Saudi culture and are a big part of the nation’s identity.
Prince Fahad added: “The federation’s goal through this participation was to shed light on the sport of our fathers and ancestors, which Arab countries have known since ancient times until it became part of their societies.”


World Fencing Championship for youngsters starts in Riyadh on Friday

World Fencing Championship for youngsters starts in Riyadh on Friday
Updated 11 April 2024
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World Fencing Championship for youngsters starts in Riyadh on Friday

World Fencing Championship for youngsters starts in Riyadh on Friday
  • Competition begins with foil fencing for participants under 20 years
  • 54 referees from around the world will officiate

RIYADH: The Cadet and Junior World Fencing Championship begins on Friday in the Arena Hall at King Saud University, Riyadh.
More than 1,700 fencers from more than 100 countries will be participating at the event, which concludes on April 20.
The championship starts at 8 a.m. with foil fencing for participants under 20 years, while the opening ceremony is at 5 p.m. and includes players, referees, a visual presentation about fencing, and a parade of the teams’ flags.
WFC’s organizing committee began its preparations for the event by issuing visas; selecting 15 hotels for the delegations of the teams and committees in the international federation; and assigning 30 buses to transport players from the hotels to training venues and competition halls.
The committee has also prepared 60 courts to the highest standards to comply with the International Fencing Federation.
The event will be officiated by 54 referees from around the world.
The championship is expected to attract global attention and media coverage, and its prestige will help in the pursuit of achieving the goals of Vision 2030 that aim to transform Saudi Arabia into a global destination for hosting major competitions and events.
Attendance for spectators at the Arena Hall is free of charge.


Young Saudi athletes prepare for first Gulf Youth Games

Young Saudi athletes prepare for first Gulf Youth Games
Updated 09 April 2024
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Young Saudi athletes prepare for first Gulf Youth Games

Young Saudi athletes prepare for first Gulf Youth Games
  • 145 men and 33 women will represent the Kingdom in 20 sports at the event, hosted by the UAE between April 16 and May 2

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will be represented by 178 athletes when the first Gulf Youth Games gets underway this month. The UAE is hosting the inaugural event, which begins on April 16 and continues until May 2.
In total, 3,500 athletes representing Gulf Cooperation Council countries will compete for medals in 24 individual and team sports.
The Kingdom will be represented by 145 men and 33 women in 20 of those sports: handball, volleyball, basketball, athletics, swimming, judo, fencing, archery, cycling, badminton, billiards, karate, taekwondo, chess, jujitsu, boxing, equestrianism, golf, e-sports, and paralympic events.
The Saudi athletes are making their final preparations at internal and external training camps, officials said. This first-ever event of its kind in the Gulf region comes in the run-up to the 33rd Summer Olympics in Paris, which will begin on July 26.


LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh

LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh
Updated 09 April 2024
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LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh

LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh
  • Stenson is determined to lift the trophy this time after catapulting himself into second place with a final round 65 at the 2023 Saudi Open
  • ‘I am thrilled to be returning to Riyadh to play in the Saudi Open. I loved the atmosphere on my first visit to what is an incredible golf course,’ says Stenson

RIYADH: Five fellow LIV Golf members will join captain Henrik Stenson at the 2024 Saudi Open, presented by the Public Investment Fund, that will return to Riyadh Golf Club from Apr. 17-20, 2024.
A number of DP World Tour players, including Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and the stars of the Asian Tour are also scheduled to join.
The eighth edition in December 2023 was the first time the tournament featured as a fully sanctioned Asian Tour event and saw Thai rising star Denwit Boriboonsub finish on 18-under-par, three shots ahead of 2016 Open Championship winner Stenson.
The 20-year-old has confirmed he will return to defend his title when the Asian Tour tees off after a five-week break in the Saudi capital.
Stenson, after catapulting himself into second place with a final round 65 at the 2023 Saudi Open, is determined to lift the trophy this time.
He said: “I am thrilled to be returning to Riyadh to play in the Saudi Open. I loved the atmosphere on my first visit to what is an incredible golf course, and I am very excited to experience that again.
“The facilities are highly impressive and highlight the strides that golf in Saudi Arabia continues to make,” added Stenson, who expects another strong and testing tournament against a field full of quality players.
“I am eager to go one better than last year and lift the trophy,” he said.
Building on last year’s successful hosting, the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF will once again see a strong LIV Golf contingent battle for the trophy as Andy Ogletree, Peter Uihlein, Eugenio Chacarra and David Puig join Majesticks joint-team captain Stenson and his former European Ryder Cup teammate Cabrera-Bello in Riyadh.
Puig, who won the season-opening Malaysian Open, currently tops the Asian Tour Order of Merit ahead of second-placed John Catlin from the US — winner of the recent International Series Macau presented by Wynn, where he shot the tour’s first-ever 59.
Asian Tour Commissioner and CEO Cho Minn Thant said: “We are delighted to be going back to Riyadh for the Saudi Open. The event proved an excellent addition to the Asian Tour having been elevated from the Asian Development Tour, and Riyadh Golf Club provided us with a perfect setting to end 2023.
“In Golf Saudi, we have a trusted partner who we are confident will deliver another fantastic tournament.”
Golf Saudi will again show its commitment to ensuring opportunities for everyone with a number of spots reserved for local Saudi and Arab golfers to compete in the tournament.
The Saudi Open presented by PIF is the fifth stop of the season on the Asian Tour.