JEDDAH: The recently completed Saudi indoor rowing championship is a marker of how far the sport has progressed in the Kingdom, according to the head of the Saudi Rowing Federation.
Around 190 male and female athletes competed in the championship, which was held at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium on Friday, with the 2,000-meter races categorized by age and weight.
“We are excited to see the progress rowing has made in Saudi Arabia,” Ali H. Alireza, chairman of the Saudi Rowing Federation, said.
“The first time the Saudi Rowing Federation was put on the map was in the Asian Games in Indonesia 2018, where we had just one competitor, who finished in the top 10. “Last year, we participated in the Asian Indoor Championship with four ladies and nine men, which indicates the great progress of the Kingdom in rowing.”
He added: “The federation championship held in Jeddah is now classified as an international event by the International Federation of Rowing,” which means the winners will automatically qualify for the World Championships in Canada next month.
“We’re very happy for the participants who won this competition that they do not have to go through qualifying to participate in the World Championships. That’s the kind of progress we want — to have Saudi Arabia be part of an international rowing scene,” Alireza said.
The federation will provide the athletes with world-class Olympic trainers to give them the best chance of success in future competitions, he added.
During the indoor rowing championship, Bill Barry, an Olympic medalist, was honored for his role in setting up the Saudi Rowing Federation.
Fay Ho Kim Fai, continental representative for Asia at World Rowing said: “The Saudi Rowing Federation have excelled themselves. They have a good executive team who are going in the right direction to further develop the sport of rowing in the country.”
After its successful hosting of the rowing championship, Fai said Saudi Arabia is considered a good venue to host events in collaboration with the Asian Rowing Federation.
“The main reason for our visit is to look for any favorable beaches (or) coastline in the Kingdom that can host future Asian Championship events. There is a lot of potential in Saudi Arabia due to the Red Sea,” she said.
“We at the Asian Federation share the same mission and goal as the Saudi Rowing Federation — to bring in the Rowing Championship on the coastal side. We expect the outcomes of this collaboration to be positive. Our aim is to help the Middle East countries build up rowing numeracy at indoor and coastal Olympic levels. There are a lot of people who have never rowed before but have the capability. This is a sport that requires the effort of the whole body and is very good for fitness,” she added.
Hussein Ali Alireza, captain of the Saudi rowing team said: “This indoor rowing championship proved the sport is growing, the presence of the sport in the Kingdom has drastically changed in recent years — you can see it in gyms; a lot of people are rowing now. The sponsorship is also expanding.”
He continued: “These kinds of competitions are helping to raise awareness of the sport. Ultimately, rowing is on the water, it’s not on a machine. So this is just the first step — getting athletes to try rowing on the machine. Then the really fit and strong ones are recruited and taken into the team for training on the water.”
The Saudi Rowing Federation signed agreements with Hertz, Delta Fitness and CALO to provide amenities for the competitors. Mohammad Shammaa, Marketing Manager of Delta Fitness, told Arab News, “We have a long-term business relationship and partnership with the federation. Part of our vision at Delta Fitness is to support federation in raising awareness and providing rowing equipment, logistics, and technical support. We are doing our best to help the community to be more aware of this amazing sport.”
Khalid Shaaker Mohammad of the Saudi Rowing Federation took first place in the Men’s Master 30-39 category — his 6 minutes and 28 seconds was the fastest time of the championship.
“I’ve been practicing all year long and to win is the best feeling ever,” he said. “I have trained really hard and after securing second place in the last two competitions, my goal was to win this year.
“Rowing is an amazing sport, but a tough one. The trainers at the federation really worked hard with me and it is remarkable to see how the level of competition has improved with the Championship growing.”
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