Saudi crown prince receives phone call from UK PM

Saudi crown prince receives phone call from UK PM
Saudi crown prince receives phone call from UK PM

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Kariman Abuljadayel, who was the Kingdom’s first female Olympic sprinter in 2016, has switched to rowing for the 2024 Games in Paris.

Speaking on The Mayman Show, Abuljadayel said it was a challenge to switch sports. “Sprinting, it’s just a straight line. You just go a few seconds and be as explosive as you can and that’s it. In rowing, it’s harder, definitely harder,” she said.

Also, she will now compete over 2,000 meters, rather than 100 meters; and have to contend with weather and water conditions. “Actually, in many points in the race, you just give up. It is just too hard, especially on the water.”

She said members of her family, who also participate in sports, are her main supporters. “I would say failure is not you losing, failure is you stop trying. So try again and again and again,” she said.

Abuljadayel said that “everyone thinks that it is easy. But you give so much of your time, you sacrifice a lot. It is a lifestyle, it is not like a hobby.” Her rigorous schedule includes six or seven days a week, with two sessions a day on the water and one at a local gym.

The interview with her took place at Arena Fitness Innovation Gym in Riyadh.

While studying at Northeastern University in Boston, she was a member of the track and field team. And although a Saudi federation existed for track athletes, there were no women participating at that time.

Having decided to switch sports and finding no governing body, she set up the Saudi Rowing Federation in 2019 with fellow athletes, because it was “important to represent Saudi Arabia in international competitions.” She said the rowing federation is now one of the country’s top-performing bodies.

Being the first Saudi woman athlete to take part in an Olympic Games 100-meter sprint event, Abuljadayel recently donated her running outfit to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. “Actually, to go to the museum and to see my outfit (on) display is a feeling I can’t put into words, to be honest. It felt like I was part of a bigger narrative, the narrative of the Olympians,” she said.

In its new home, her outfit is displayed alongside apparel of famous Olympians including Usain Bolt and Yusra Mardini. Abuljadayel feels “very proud” and encourages people to visit the museum.

One of her fondest Olympic moments was at the opening ceremony in 2016 when the Saudi Arabia team was announced. “At that moment, I officially felt that I’m actually an Olympian, OK, you officially made it as an Olympian.”

Apart from spending time on the water, Abuljadayel also serves as an advisor for the development of a world-class sports ecosystem in NEOM. “This will contribute to the growth and success of Saudi athletes,” she added. “The role that you play as a female in Saudi Arabia, as a female athlete, is just (to) be successful to inspire the next generation.”

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