Saudi female sporting landscape becoming more diverse and inclusive, panel tells London conference

Special Saudi female sporting landscape becoming more diverse and inclusive, panel tells London conference
Panellists at the WiMENA Women in Sport conference at Chelsea FC in London. (AN Photo)
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Updated 06 June 2024
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Saudi female sporting landscape becoming more diverse and inclusive, panel tells London conference

Saudi female sporting landscape becoming more diverse and inclusive, panel tells London conference
  • Initiatives look ‘to realize the aspirations of a country’
  • Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini: ‘It’s about creating the right environment (for women)’

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s strategy around female sporting participation is shifting to focus on ensuring diversity and inclusion, Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini of the Saudi Sports for All Federation said on Thursday.

Al-Husseini was speaking at the WiMENA Women in Sport conference at Chelsea FC in London about the development of women in sport in the Kingdom.

She said: “It’s about creating the right environment (for women). Having modest wear (for example), giving them the option to be fully involved in main events or having a segregated area where they feel comfortable being physically active.”

She added: “We are very proud to now be including women in all our events, and when we talk about diversity and inclusion, we are talking about women of all ages, all ethnic backgrounds and capabilities, and ensuring we have tailored programs for each of these groups within the community.”

Mohammed Awlia, general manager of strategy and planning at the Saudi Ministry of Sports, was also speaking on the panel and he cited the setting up of the National Sport Strategy as the catalyst for the rapid development of the Kingdom’s female sport scene.

He expanded on Al-Husseini’s remarks by adding that the NSS worked to develop female participation at all levels, from amateur to professional, and that the focus of all sporting authorities and federations in the Kingdom was on how to turn participation into medals, titles and championships.

Jan Paterson, managing director of NEOM Sport, told those attending the conference that the megaproject’s role through sporting participation was to help implement and amplify the NSS.

She said: “(Our role) is to genuinely begin to realize the aspirations of a country, of which 60 percent of its population is under the age of 30 and whose ambition is real.”

Martin Whitaker, CEO at Saudi Motorsport, a promotion company set up to commercialize the sport in the Kingdom, said there were a growing number of opportunities for women to get involved in the business side of the sport.

He said those opportunities, which mirrored the growing sporting participation in the Kingdom, were testament to the increasing diversity and inclusiveness of Saudi society.

He added: “(As well as racetracks) we have constructed a team of people, the majority of whom are young Saudis. Some 42 percent of our staff are female. I think that’s a really encouraging situation for us to be in. I’m really proud of that.”


Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics

Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics
Updated 4 sec ago
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Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics

Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics
  • Former world number one has twice won an Olympic gold medal in singles
PARIS: Former world number one and three-time Grand Slam title winner Andy Murray confirmed on Tuesday that he will retire after the Paris Olympics.
“Arrived in Paris for my last ever tennis tournament @Olympics. Competing for Great Britain have been by far the most memorable weeks of my career and I’m extremely proud to get do it one final time,” the 37-year-old wrote on social media.
Murray has twice won an Olympic gold medal in singles — at the 2012 Games in London and successfully defending the title four years later at Rio.

From Djamel Sedjati to Mutaz Barshim: 5 Arab men to watch at the Paris Olympics

From Djamel Sedjati to Mutaz Barshim: 5 Arab men to watch at the Paris Olympics
Updated 59 min 40 sec ago
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From Djamel Sedjati to Mutaz Barshim: 5 Arab men to watch at the Paris Olympics

From Djamel Sedjati to Mutaz Barshim: 5 Arab men to watch at the Paris Olympics
  • Podium places possible in athletics, gymnastics, surfing, handball
  • Gold likely for Djamel Sedjati, Mutaz Barshim, Ahmad Abu Al-Soud

There is a lot to look forward to when it comes to Arab athletes at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

A total of 14 medals were won by Arab men in Tokyo 2020 and there is potential for more this time around.

Here are five Arab men to look out for in Paris 2024.

Djamel Sedjati (Algeria) – Athletics

Algeria’s Djamel Sedjati heads to Paris in red-hot form, not only chasing gold but adamant on breaking David Rudisha’s 12-year-old world record in the 800 meters.

Within the last three weeks, the 25-year-old Sedjati ran the third- and fourth-fastest 800 meters of all time, going 1 minute, 41.56 seconds in the Diamond League stop in Paris, and then lowering his personal best to 1:41.46 five days later in Monaco.

Rudisha set the world record of 1:40.91 in London 2012 and Sedjati has every intention of emulating the Kenyan at this Olympics.

“I would like to thank everyone, especially my family and my coach. It’s the fourth time I run a world lead and the second time an Algerian record. I have worked really hard for that,” said Sedjati in Monaco recently.

“Now I am thinking of the world record, I hope to run it at the Olympic Games. I have two more weeks to prepare it. I will focus on that and put in the necessary work so that I can achieve my goal.

“I will keep the preparation the same. My mindset is that the hard work I have put in will pay off.”

Sedjati’s performance in Monaco saw him set a new national record, world lead, Diamond League record, meet record, and personal best.

Will he do even better in Paris?

The men’s 800-meter heats begin on Aug. 7, with the semifinals and finals on Aug. 9 and 10.

 

 

Ahmad Abu Al-Soud (Jordan) – Gymnastics

In Liverpool in 2022, Jordan’s Ahmad Abu Al-Soud clinched the silver medal in pommel horse to become the first Arab to make the podium at a World Championships.

Despite a lower-back injury slowing his momentum, he claimed another World Championship medal the following year, this time bronze.

He then went on to dominate the 2024 World Cup series (winning gold in three of the four) to punch his ticket to Paris and become the first Jordanian gymnast to qualify for the Olympics.

The 29-year-old Abu Al-Soud, who has a skill named after him in the FIG Code of Points, heads to Paris ranked No. 1 in the world for pommel horse and is a favorite for gold at the Olympics.

Men’s qualification in artistic gymnastics begins on July 27 at Bercy Arena, with the pommel horse final scheduled for Aug. 3.

 

 

Ramzi Boukhiam (Morocco) - Surfing

The first Moroccan or Arab surfer to qualify for the World Surf League’s Championship Tour, Ramzi Boukhiam is heading to his second Olympics, having competed in Tokyo 2020, when surfing made its debut.

The surfing competition of the 2024 Olympics will be staged in Tahiti, where 24 men and 24 women will take on the majestic and equally terrifying Teahupo’o Wave.

Boukhiam placed ninth on his Olympic debut in Tokyo but Teahupo’o is far better suited to his surfing style. And the 30-year-old can draw confidence from the fact he placed third at the very same spot, on the Championship Tour at the Tahiti Pro just two months ago.

“I have my second chance now, going to Tahiti, on a wave like Teahupo’o, it’s the most dangerous but the most perfect wave on the planet,” Boukhiam, who was Morocco’s flagbearer in Tokyo 2020, recently said on the podcast Abtal.

“As a surfer, it doesn’t get much better than that. You’re scared but super excited at the same time and I feel like if we could get good waves, it can be actually an amazing, amazing event.”

Boukhiam secured his place in the 2024 Olympics by clinching the silver medal at the ISA World Surfing Games in Puerto Rico in March.

The surfing competition at the Olympics kicks off in Tahiti on July 27 with action continuing through July 31.

 

Mutaz Barshim (Qatar) – Athletics

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim won bronze in London (which got upgraded to silver nine years later), silver in Rio, and gold in Tokyo.

Barshim has been raising the bar higher and higher with each Olympic Games and the star high jumper is now ready to take the leap one last time.

“I feel like I’ve been here for quite some time, I’ve done everything, seen everything and I feel like at this point it would be selfish for me to take more time away from my family and loved ones,” the 33-year-old Barshim told FloTrack this week after announcing Paris would be his last Games.

“I want to be there for my family also. Everyone has been there for me all my career. I’ve been jumping professionally since 2011, so it’s a long time and I’m really glad and happy about everything that we accomplished together but I feel like it’s time now to give back. It’s time to give myself back to my family.”

Barshim provided one of the most iconic moments of the Tokyo Olympics when he and his Italian rival and friend Gianmarco Tamberi decided to share the gold medal instead of going through a jump-off to break their tie.

They had both overcome career-threatening injuries in the build-up to Tokyo and felt they both deserved to top the podium.

Barshim and Tamberi have said there would be no sharing if they find themselves in the same situation in Paris.

The men’s high jump qualification at the Paris Olympics will take place on Aug. 7 at Stade de France, with the final scheduled for Aug. 10.

Yahia Omar (Egypt) – Handball

He is going to be a Parisian for the next three years but before making his debut for new club Paris Saint-Germain, Yahia Omar will be looking to help Egypt secure their first handball medal at the Olympics.

The Egyptians came agonizingly close to making the podium in Tokyo 2020, finishing fourth after losing to Spain in the bronze-medal match. It was the first time an African team had made it that far in handball at the Olympics.

The 26-year-old right back was a key part of that Olympics squad, which earned him Tokyo 2020 All-star team honors — the first non-European since 1992 to achieve that feat.

Egypt have a daunting road ahead in Paris as they landed in the same group alongside hosts and defending champions France, reigning world champions Denmark, Norway, Hungary and Argentina.

“It’s the Olympics. There’s nothing easy. I think we have the harder group, but I think it gives us a better possibility to be in the semifinals,” said Omar when the draw was revealed.

The Pharaohs commence their campaign against Hungary on July 27.

 

 


Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game

Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game
Updated 23 July 2024
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Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game

Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game

MIAMI: Argentina star Lionel Messi and Inter Miami teammate Luis Suarez will miss Wednesday’s Major League Soccer All-Star Game with injuries, the league and team announced Monday.

An updated MLS roster for the match-up against Mexico’s Liga MX All-Stars at Columbus, Ohio, listed Messi and Uruguayan striker Suarez among those who would not play.

Inter Miami detailed the injuries, with Messi still sidelined after missing two MLS matches last week with a right ankle injury suffered in Argentina’s Copa America final triumph over Colombia.

“Messi will miss the All-Star Game due to an ankle injury while Luis Suarez, who recently returned from international duty after over 40 days away from the club, will miss the All-Star Game due to knee discomfort,” Inter Miami said.

It would have been the first MLS All-Star appearance for 37-year-old Messi, who joined Inter Miami last July.

Eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, who helped spark Argentina to the 2022 World Cup title, led Miami to last year’s inaugural Leagues Cup crown in a tournament of MLS and Mexican league squads.

But Miami said Messi’s status and that of Suarez remain in doubt for Saturday’s home match against Mexico’s Puebla, Inter’s first step in defending the Leagues Cup title.

The availability of Messi and Suarez will be determined by their “daily recovery process” according to the team statement.


Israel heads to Olympics as Palestinian delegation calls for exclusion

Israel heads to Olympics as Palestinian delegation calls for exclusion
Updated 22 July 2024
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Israel heads to Olympics as Palestinian delegation calls for exclusion

Israel heads to Olympics as Palestinian delegation calls for exclusion
  • Summer Games in French capital open Friday against backdrop of heightened security concerns
  • Palestine Olympic Committee sent letter to IOC chief Thomas Bach asking him to ban Israel

TEL AVIV: Israel’s Olympic delegation flew to Paris on Monday as the Palestinian contingent called for banning the Israeli athletes over the war in Gaza.
The Summer Games in the French capital open Friday against a backdrop of heightened security concerns and growing international outrage over the death toll and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.
The Palestine Olympic Committee said Monday it sent a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach asking him to ban Israel, citing the bombings of the besieged strip as a breach of the Olympic truce.
The letter “emphasized that Palestinian athletes, particularly those in Gaza, are denied safe passage and have suffered significantly due to ongoing conflict.”
It said “approximately 400 Palestinian athletes have been killed, and the destruction of sports facilities exacerbates the plight of athletes who are already under severe restrictions.”
In its statement, the committee also referenced the recent opinion by the UN’s top court finding Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories illegal.
Ahead of the flight to France, Israel Olympic Committee President Yael Arad called it a “victory” that the team’s 88 athletes were participating in the Games.
“Our first victory is that we are here and going, and that we didn’t give up and have been competing in hundreds of competitions since October 7,” Arad told journalists at Ben Gurion airport.
She was referring to the date of the unprecedented Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel that started the war, which has led to protests around the world.
French organizers have stepped up security in Paris where the Israeli delegation will be subject to strict security protocols.
“It’s no secret that these Olympic Games are a little more difficult for all of us. But we have full confidence in the organization of security,” Arad added.
Speaking at the same conference, judoka Inbar Lanir acknowledged that Israeli athletes have become mired in controversy over the war, but added they were “used to” it.
“My part is to connect everyone by sports. It’s above all politics and wars and hate. So, I’m feeling safe and I’m excited to represent my country.”
French lawmaker Thomas Portes sparked a political row over the weekend by saying Israeli athletes were “not welcome” and calling for “mobilization” around the Olympics, during a demonstration in support of Palestinians.
But French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said on Monday Israeli athletes were “welcome in France.”
Some pro-Palestinian protesters and activists in France and the United States, as well as Palestinian sports clubs and the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, had joined a call for the IOC to limit Israel’s official participation in the 2024 Summer Games over the war in Gaza.
In March, the head of the IOC coordination committee for Paris 2024, Pierre-Olivier Beckers-Vieujant, said it was “out of the question to imagine” sanctions on Israel over its war in Gaza, as Russia and its Olympic Committee were over the invasion of Ukraine.
The Olympic Games in Paris will take place from July 26 to August 11.
Several Israeli competitors are in contention for medals, including taekwondo athlete Avishag Semberg, who was a bronze medallist at the 2020 Olympics, gymnast Artem Dolgopyat, who secured Israel its first gymnastics gold in 2020, and Lanir, a 2023 world champion in her category.
Eight Palestinian athletes are also taking part in the Paris Games.
The October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Out of 251 people taken hostage that day, 116 are still being held inside the Gaza Strip, including 44 who the military says are dead.
Israel’s military offensive has killed at least 39,006 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
According to the Israeli military, 327 soldiers have been killed in the Gaza military campaign since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.


India coach Gautam Gambhir backs Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to play at 2027 Cricket World Cup

India coach Gautam Gambhir backs Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to play at 2027 Cricket World Cup
Updated 22 July 2024
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India coach Gautam Gambhir backs Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to play at 2027 Cricket World Cup

India coach Gautam Gambhir backs Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to play at 2027 Cricket World Cup
  • Gambhir begins his tenure this week with a tour of Sri Lanka that includes three T20s and three one-day internationals
  • Kohli and Sharma had announced their T20 retirements after India’s World Cup triumph in the West Indies on June 29

MUMBAI: New India coach Gautam Gambhir has backed star batters Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to continue playing in the long term, even possibly at the 2027 Cricket World Cup in South Africa.
Gambhir begins his tenure as Indian men’s team coach this week with a tour of Sri Lanka that includes three T20s and three one-day internationals.
Kohli and Sharma had announced their T20 retirements after India’s World Cup triumph in the West Indies on June 29. While Kohli is 35 years old and Sharma is 37, Gambhir backed both to continue playing for India in tests and ODIs.
“I think they have shown what they can deliver on the big stage, whether it’s the T20 or ODI World Cup. One thing I can be very clear of is that both have a lot of cricket left in them,” Gambhir said on Monday. “With the Champions Trophy and a big tour of Australia (coming up), they will be motivated enough. And then, hopefully, if they can keep their fitness, the 2027 World Cup as well.”
Both Kohli and Sharma have been included in India’s ODI squad for the Sri Lanka tour, with the latter back leading the side.
Gambhir and Kohli have had highly publicized spats in the past, especially in the Indian Premier League.
The first came in 2013 when Gambhir was captain of Kolkata Knight Riders with another in 2023 when he was leading Lucknow SuperGiants. Kohli was part of the Royal Challengers Bengaluru on both occasions.
“My relationship with Virat Kohli is not for the public. It may be good for TRP (during IPL), but it is between two mature individuals,” said Gambhir. “He is a thorough professional and a world class athlete, he is a world class player. I have always said that.
“On the field, everyone has the right to fight for their own team, but at the moment, we are representing India and I am sure we are going to be on the same page – to make India proud. I have huge respect for him as a player and it is going to continue. Hopefully, we can work together really well.”
Suryakumar Yadav has been named the new T20 captain, taking over from Sharma as India looks to build toward the 2026 World Cup, with young batting star Shubman Gill his vice-captain.
That shuts out Hardik Pandya, who was vice-captain at 2024 T20 World Cup. Pandya had also led India in T20s since 2022.
“Hardik is still a very important player for us. We want him to be fit and be the player he can be for India. Those all-round skills are very difficult to find and fitness obviously has been a challenge for him over the last few years, which makes things a little difficult for the coach or even the selectors,” said Ajit Agarkar, India’s chief selector.
“You obviously want a captain that is likely to play all the games. We (also) think Suryakumar Yadav is a deserving candidate and has the necessary qualities to succeed as captain. Over time we will see how he develops into this role as the next World Cup is only in 2026.”
Yadav, though, missed out on India’s ODI squad, with keeper-batter Rishabh Pant making a comeback to the format. Pant was involved in a car accident in December 2022 and missed 18 months before returning to India’s T20 side for the World Cup.
“We haven’t discussed Surya for ODIs at this point. Shreyas Iyer is back and Lokesh Rahul is back too (for ODIs),” Agarkar said. “They had a great World Cup (2023). Rishabh is back as well, so there is quality in the middle order.
“Regards to Rishabh again, before his unfortunate accident, he’s been a key player for us. Now that he’s back, you want to get him around the group again, playing again.”
Indian team officials are aiming to manage the workloads of different players through the upcoming season, with a tour of Australia beginning in November and the Champions Trophy early next year.
As such, star fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has been completely rested for the Sri Lanka tour after his stellar performances in the T20 World Cup.
“Workload management for someone like Bumrah is very important. He is a rare bowler that anyone would want. You want him to play important games,” said Gambhir.