Female Saudi black belt shares her story

Nehad Sulaimani is a sports lover and karate black belt who once captained a basketball team. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 15 May 2019
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Female Saudi black belt shares her story

  • She has made time to establish her own magazine for mothers and children to nurture their health and fitness

JEDDAH: Tall, slender and graceful, Nehad Sulaimani is not your typical black belt in karate.
“During my childhood, I lived abroad with my parents. They noticed how active I was in school and encouraged me to try different sports. From then on, the seed was planted and now, I am in love with sport,” she smiles, recalling those early days at the age of 8.
Most Saudi women witnessed previous generations, who did not practice structured sport yet remain relatively fit. The reason, of course, is that many of their grandmothers had a more active lifestyle than we do today.
In a more passive, digital world, sport is increasingly important to replace that active existence. As part of Vision 2030, physical education was formally incorporated into girls’ public schools in Saudi Arabia in 2017. 
The Kingdom’s drive to encourage more women into sports continued with the appointment of Princess Reema bint Bandar as the first woman to head the Saudi Federation for Community Sports.
Since 2014, Sulaimani has trained with coach Rawan Zahran, professional trainer and founder of Sweat Army gym. She also trains with US fitness icon Alexia Clarke. 
While Sulaimani has a black belt in karate, she also became the captain of the  Saudi women’s basketball team — the first women’s team to play at Al-Jawhara Stadium in Jeddah.
“I tell young girls if they want to have a good life and good body, doing exercise is important for physical and mental health. Eating healthy food goes hand in hand with that,” Sulaimani stressed.
She added that finding an appropriate area to exercise in was important to increase its effectiveness, as well as one’s own enjoyment: “Walking and jogging on the Corniche in Jeddah is lovely, especially during cooler times of the day.” 
With the abundance of gyms and sport facilities in Saudi Arabia for women, there is no excuse for not exercising or engaging in physical activity. 
Saudi women have participated in the Olympics and have founded teams in different sports.
The Kingdom even has a woman racing driver, Reema Juffali, who made history representing her country in the 2019 F4 British Championship.
As for social media, it has proven to be a powerful tool for exchanging ideas and an excellent way to reach out to the public. Sulaimani uses it to help others with exercise by posting demonstration videos.
“Social media allows me to show others my class. I give them workout ideas and explore various exercise moves,” Sulaimani continued. 
She has also made time to establish her own magazine for mothers and children to nurture their health and fitness.


‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

Updated 27 May 2019
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‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

  • Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing career Grand slam end after early exit
  • Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round

PARIS: Roger Federer marked his return to Roland Garros after a four-year absence with a straight sets win over Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on Sunday, admitting he “felt on edge,” as Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing a career Grand Slam suffered a quick kill.

Federer, a 20-time major winner, had not played the tournament since 2015 when he reached the quarterfinals.

However, on Sunday, it was as if the 37-year-old had never been away as he swept to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory in one hour 41 minutes on a packed, rebuilt Court Philippe Chatrier.

It was his 60th successive first round win at a Grand Slam.

“I felt on edge at the start, my heart was beating crazily,” said Federer, who hailed the new-look stadium which has been 90 percent rebuilt in readiness for the installation of a retractable roof for 2020.

“I felt great playing on this court. It looks very attractive, so congratulations to everyone involved.

“Hopefully I can play here again for my next match.”

That match will be against German lucky loser Oscar Otte who won just his second match in eight years on the tour by seeing off Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.

“I would be surprised if Roger knew my name,” said Otte, the world No. 145.

Federer broke serve five times and fired 36 winners past 24-year-old Sonego, the world No. 73 who made the quarterfinals at the Monte Carlo Masters.

German fifth seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Kerber saw her hopes of a career Grand Slam ended by Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova.

Kerber slumped to a 6-4, 6-2 defeat to 18-year-old Potapova who was making her French Open debut.

“Kerber is actually one of my idols, and when I was young I was looking for her game,” said the 81st-ranked Russian who hit 28 winners past her German opponent.

Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round.

The German left-hander had come into Roland Garros carrying a right ankle injury which forced her to pull out of the Italian Open and retire from her second round tie in Madrid.

“I didn’t have many expectations coming in,” said Kerber, who was broken six times in the match which brought the curtain up on the newlook Chatrier arena.

Potapova’s first win over a top 10 player gives her a second round clash against 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who stunned Federer on his way to the Australian Open semifinals and beat 11-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal in Madrid, also made the second round.

The 20-year-old sixth seed brushed aside Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).

The new Court Simonne Mathieu, a 5,000-capacity semi-sunken arena enclosed by greenhouses, was officially unveiled on Sunday.

It forms part of the €350 million upgrade of the entire site which will also see the demolition of the Court 1 ‘bullring’ after the 2018 tournament.

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, had the honor of opening proceedings against America’s Taylor Townsend and the 19th seed marked the occasion with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.

“It’s cute,” said the Spaniard. “It’s not small, but it’s, you know, cozy.”

Other winners on the first day included Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori, a quarterfinalist in 2015, who eased past France’s Quentin Halys 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

However, Italian 16th seed Marco Cecchinato, the man who sent Novak Djokovic crashing out in the quarterfinals in 2018, fell at the first hurdle.

Cecchinato lost to 37-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Mahut —  who has slipped to 253 in the world — 2-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Canada teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime withdrew from the tournament with a thigh injury, just a day after finishing runner-up to Benoit Paire in Lyon.

The 18-year-old was seeded 25 and had been due to face Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the first round on his maiden appearance in the main draw in Paris.

Auger-Aliassime’s spot in the first round draw has been taken by Spanish lucky loser Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova closed play on Chatrier with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Madison Brengle of the US.