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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Minister of Sports and Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal inaugurated the first Saudi International Athletes Forum here on Saturday.
A galaxy of prominent local and international sports figures from around the world participated in the two-day event, and they include chairwoman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission and Zimbabwe Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry.
SAOC, represented by the Saudi Athletes Commission, is hosting the virtual session, which concluded on Sunday.
Addressing the inaugural session, Prince Abdul Aziz thanked and appreciated the guests attending various sessions of the event, including Olympic champions from various countries of the world, for presenting their Olympic experiences and contributions in front of the young Saudi men and women sports figures so as to enable them to benefit for their performances in their respective sport events in future.
Prince Abdul Aziz said, “The athletes are affiliated with the international committee and it represents athletes around the world. A lot of athletes do not have a voice or a representation but they are our heroes and champions, so how could we learn about their needs if they do not have a voice.
“That is why we have to take their opinion and impressions especially that all sports are different, and the key purpose of the committee is to solve their problems and bridge the gap between athletes and sport officials.”
Prince Abdul Aziz also added that its mandatory for every federation to start their athlete’s committee; I have requested this but the athletes must address this as well. This is one of the things we are keen to develop between athletes within their federations.”
He added, “Don’t lose hope no matter what, always find a solution. If you think you don’t have a problem or issue, you are wrong we all have challenges and we should take it as a way of learning from experiences, if we don’t have challenges we won’t be able to compete.”
“The Saudi Athletes Commission is an independent committee with a different nature of work. The commission is concerned with communicating the problems of all Saudi athletes,” Prince Abdul Aziz said, adding that they are about to launch new regulations after reaching an agreement with them so as to serve the rest of the players.
Meanwhile, president of the Saudi Athlete Commission Ibrahim Almoaiqel moderated the first session which included: Coventry, table tennis Olympic medalist and (IOC Athletes’ Commission member Ryu Seung Min, and IOC Athletes Rights’ Committee member and vice chair at the Athlete Commission at the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) Tayyeb Ikram.
The guest speakers agreed on the importance of increasing the representation of athletes. As Coventry said, “To ensure the decision makers are not just hearing from us, but also to include us in the decision making. To allow organizations to better understand what athletes go through and help make better decisions.”
Ikram added, it is good to let them plan things for themselves. It is about participation and not only in performance but also what is good for them as the Olympic movement is all about athletes.”
Ryu Seung Min said, “We want to show the world that we would like to communicate with all the athletes and listen to them.”
The main challenges in Asia were highlighted when Ikram said, “We are not different but we have a different culture and a traditional sport system, that’s why on the mental side we need to update our sport system in which we need athletes to get involved in their environment.
“You can have a medal, but how much pressure and anxiety do you go through and how to deal with it. We are still working on that and that’s why we have the athletes’ committees. We have to identify those challenges and be active towards it.”
Ryu Seung Min also shared his experience on the workshop they held to assist athletes prepare for their life after retirement and acknowledged the importance of continues feedback and evaluation to ensure its success and hoped it could be accessible to all athletes around the world.
A word of advice to the right way to move forward, Ryu Seung Min said, “Respect each other is key for things to work together and develop our communities and please go to athlete 365 register and benefit from all the valuable information to help athletes.”
SAOC director of communication moderated the following session which included Sydney Olympic silver medalist Hadi Souan and Saad Al-Shehri, football coach and manager of the Saudi under-23 national team.
Souan said, “All athletes compete to get the same medal and being talented or over prepared may help but what will make a difference is sometimes small things such as your commitment, discipline, and taking what you do seriously.
“And I don’t want to brag about myself but I believe this helped me in addition to being a good listener who listened and implement in addition to being trained in a productive environment.”
He added, “Our aims are high, we don’t want to look for another Hadi but to the things Hadi couldn’t do because we always aim high and our Saudi athletes can do it.”
SAOC sport performance committee member Turki Almisibeih moderated the following session, which focused on the importance of health and wellbeing.
Taekwondo athlete Abrar Bukhari, also emphasized on the importance of taking care of their nutrition and weight as martial art athletes are always on the watch to keep their focus and weigh category stable. This puts on them a lot of pressure contentiously but we need to learn how to control our stress and then how to moderate these elements mentally and physically in our favor.
“It’s not easy to plan for everything, we are athletes and we definitely need to focus on our sport. I didn’t have enough resources to help me bring out the best in me. So I started to educate myself with books and workshops and nutrition companies, as we didn’t have someone who could help us with that,” said Bukhari.
Abdul-Aziz Alnafisah, nutrition specialist at SAOC said considering the warm weather and nature of the country, athletes should pay attention to their health and fitness and balancing between them to ensure sustainable performance before, during and after competitions.
Dr. Qasim Almaidi, president of the Sport Medicine Federation, said, injuries tend to vary depending on the sport itself and this requires the specialist to be aware of what is needed. He added, “Providing programs in advance to prevent injuries are crucial and has proved its success such as the programs delivered by the FIFA.”
Lama Alfozan, Saudi athlete committee member and fencer moderated the last session about empowering women with the participation of chairman of the Women and Sports Committee of the Olympic Council of Asia Sheikha Hayat Bint Abdul Aziz Al Khalifa, SAOC Sport Federations Services Committee CEO Princess Delayel Bint Naha Al Saud, and Olympic equestrian rider and athlete committee member Dalma Malhas.
Sheikha Hayat at the outset congratulated Princess Reema Bint Bandar Bin Sultan on the occasion of her winning the membership of the IOC. She also lauded the efforts of Minister of Sports Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki and Deputy Minister of Sports Prince Fahd Bin Jalawi for the Kingdom’s advancement in the athletic sector reaching the global level.
“The Gulf women journey started in early 70s, Bahrain was leading in this field and we started on an Arab level. Now it’s not only to participate but to compete and win victories. Empowering women is developing her participation in a way to allow her to be involved and make decision and to do that we need to provide her with resources with the cooperation of the government, education sector and private sectors.
“SAOC must put a clear strategy that women sports must become recognized to ensure sustainability, in addition to national federations. Women exposure in media should be balanced and equal, because of the IOC gender equality review with 25 recommendations. These outcome and guidelines will save time during the empowerment process,” said Sheikha Hayat.
Princess Delayel also acknowledged the transformation of empowering women in Saudi sport, growing the inclusiveness of females in 25 Saudi sport federations, in addition to more than 2,400 Saudi women athletes representing the Saudi national team.
“Saudi women’s sports have witnessed remarkable growth over the last decade, by winning 11 different medals in the 2019 Gulf Clubs Championship. There are 25 Saudi sports federations, which have their female teams,” she said, adding that these federations are working to create a stimulating environment for female athletes in their respective federations.
In her speech, Malhas, a member of the Saudi Equestrian Team and the Kingdom’s first female youth Olympics medalist, said that her winning the bronze medal in the Singapore Olympics 2010 was the turning point in her life that prepared her to participate in international tournaments. “It had also contributed to the complete transformation of my lifestyle,” she added.
“The future of women, with the new vision to support the federation through asking them to provide strategies for four years to empower and support women, and we will ask them to provide a productive environment to and provide programs to all age categories to take the women athlete from the participating level to the competing level.
“The medal and exposure had a great impact on my life, before I used to concentrate on certain goals, now I’m mentally changed and I have a vision and this vision gave me the motivation to do better,” said Malhas.
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