Saudi women ride into history with ‘dream’ home debut

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13 Saudi female jockeys participate for the first time in the Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (SPA)
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13 Saudi female jockeys participate for the first time in the Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (SPA)
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Updated 14 December 2019

Saudi women ride into history with ‘dream’ home debut

  • Olympic and World Cup qualification points are up for grabs in the second edition of the festival
  • 13 Saudi female jockeys are participating in the qualifier, set for Dec. 14 and Dec. 19-21

RIYADH: Saudi women riders are saddling up to make history when they compete side by side with their male counterparts for the first time as part of this month’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival.

Olympic and World Cup qualification points are up for grabs in the second edition of the festival being held on Dec. 14 and Dec. 19-21.

However, more significantly, women riders will compete in the same arena as their male counterparts for the first time in the Kingdom’s history.

Over the course of two weekends, the festival will feature 120 riders, 150 grooms, 50 officials, 300 companions and trainers, 250 club members and 150 crew.

The 13 Saudi women competitors are excited that the moment to shine on their home turf has finally arrived.

“This is a dream,” said 18-year-old Lama Al-Ajmi. “It’s an international four-star competition and I will finally get to represent my country on home soil.




13 Saudi female jockeys participate for the first time in the Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (SPA)

“For me, this is the start. This is the start for all of us. I want to be on top and the Olympics are my dream,” she added.

Sultanah Abar, 32, a graphic designer and former UN employee, will compete alongside her brother Abdelkarim in the festival — their first time riding together in an international competition in their homeland.

“I started riding when I was four years old,” she said. “But until now I’ve only been able to compete abroad. Finally, we can compete at home and it makes me proud.” 

Wafa Al-Hasoun, 24, also voiced her excitement at being able to join an international competition in her country. “We used to watch, now we participate and look to win. We’re very excited to finally be part of this,” she said.

The equestrian festival is part of the wider Diriyah Season, a month of major sports events such as Formula E, top-class men’s tennis and the recent world heavyweight title fight The Clash On The Dunes.

The Diriyah UNESCO World Heritage site will also stage performances from some of the globe’s biggest music artists, including Swedish House Mafia and Calvin Harris, as part of the festival.

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Lights on, players off: Pakistan’s Rizwan shines on frustrating day

Updated 15 August 2020

Lights on, players off: Pakistan’s Rizwan shines on frustrating day

  • ’I was ready to play but the decision rests with the umpires, and they have the responsibility to ensure no one gets injured,’ said Rizwan
  • Victory in this match would put England 2-0 up in a three-match campaign

SOUTHAMPTON, United Kingdom: Mohammad Rizwan was left frustrated when having shone for Pakistan with a fine unbeaten fifty in the second Test against England at Southampton on Friday, he was forced to leave the field for bad light.
Pakistan were 223-9 at stumps on the second day, with Rizwan 60 not out just as he started to up the tempo of his innings with only last man Naseem Shah for company.
Even though the Ageas Bowl floodlights were on, the umpires took the players off the field 10 minutes after tea with bad weather, as it did on Thursday, causing several interruptions.
This was the latest example of bad light stopping play in a Test even when floodlights are in use.
Whereas batsmen could once stay on even if ‘offered’ the light by the umpires, since 2010 the match officials alone decide to halt a Test should they deem the conditions too dark.
“I was ready to play but the decision rests with the umpires, and they have the responsibility to ensure no one gets injured,” Rizwan told reporters after marking Pakistan’s Independence Day with a second fifty in eight career Tests following his 95 against Australia in Brisbane in November.
“They have to go by the light meter. It’s the same for both teams,” added the wicket keeper, who impressed behind the stumps during Pakistan’s three-wicket defeat in last week’s first Test at Old Trafford.
Pakistan were in danger of being dismissed for under 200 at 176-8.
But Mohammad Abbas gave Rizwan staunch support with two off 20 balls during a stand of 39 before he was lbw to Stuart Broad.
Fortunately for the umpires, in a series being played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus, there were no angry spectators present when they decided it was unsafe to continue.
“We’re a little bit frustrated we didn’t get a chance to finish them off,” said England great James Anderson, whose return of 3-48 left him just seven shy of becoming the first paceman to take 600 wickets in Tests.
“The light has been gloomy all day but it’s one of those when it didn’t seem like the batsmen were struggling too much.”
Anderson was skeptical about using a different colored ball to keep Test-match play going under floodlights, suggesting instead that officials be given a “bit more leeway” in their use of light meters.
Meanwhile new-ball colleague Broad sympathized with umpires Michael Gough and Richard Kettleborough.
“It’s a tricky one because player safety is very important,” said Broad after a return of 3-56 in 25 overs saw him become the seventh England bowler to take three wickets in seven consecutive Test innings.
“As bowlers you’re keen to bowl all the time,” especially in conditions like today.
“The officials were right to bring us off...all of our fielders were saying we wouldn’t want to bat in this, this is quite dark,” he added.
In overcast conditions ideally suited to England’s four-man pace attack, Pakistan creditably did not lose a wicket in the hour’s play that was possible in a morning session curtailed by rain to be 155-5 at lunch.
Babar Azam, in for nearly two-and-a-half hours, was eventually undone for 47 when he edged a fine Broad delivery that moved late to wicket keeper Jos Buttler.
But Buttler could not hold a difficult legside chance when Rizwan, on 14, miscued a hook off Broad.
Pakistan were, though 176-8 when Shaheen Afridi was run out without scoring by Dom Sibley.
Rizwan, however, cleverly uppercut left-arm paceman Sam Curran over the slips for four before driving Chris Woakes through extra-cover for another boundary.
England took the new ball but, bizarrely, kept six fielders back to Rizwan, who still completed a 104-ball fifty featuring four fours.
Victory in this match would put England 2-0 up in a three-match campaign and see them to their first series win over Pakistan since 2010.