Members of the first Qatar women’s cycling team, Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF), Secretary-General Magid Al Naimi (centre), and Qatar women’s coach Pia Sundstedt pose for a picture after a press conference in Doha yesterday. QCF Board Member Amani Al Dosari (third left) and QCF Media Coordinator, Sonia Azad (right) are also seen. PICTURES BY: SALIM MATRAMKOT
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Drawing comfort from the rising popularity of cycling in the country, Qatar yesterday unveiled their first women’s team that will feature in an international event next
A batch of 22 girls - with the youngest just 13 and the oldest 21 - are currently training under the watchful guidance of new coach Pia Sundstedt from Finland.
While introducing teenagers Ramz Sbeitan (17), Salma Marey (16), Reem Sbeitan (13), Nermeen Ghounim (16), Rana Sbeitan (16) and Dana Othman Abuhejleh (16), Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF) Secretary-General Magid Al Naimi said Qatar’s new cycling team will boost the sports movement for women in the Arab world.
“We had been trying to form a women’s team for long. The first time we tried was way back in 2005-2006 but our project then did not take off. However, thanks to our Board Member Amani (Al Dosari), we have been successful in realising this goal of ours to have our own women’s team,” he added.
“She (Amani) helped in a big way to get a coach and form this team for us. We were seeking to get a professional coach for these girls and we are delighted to get the services of Pia Sundstedt,” Al Naimi said.
“We kicked off the proceedings in March. We started indoors initially but now these girls are training at Losail International
Circuit with their coach supervising their progress,” Al Naimi said.
“We have 22 girls in our first batch. They will be split into two groups. Right now these girls are busy learning skills of cycling,” Al Naimi said.
“Sports is for all. There is no difference between boys and girls taking up sports seriously. That’s what we believe in and that’s why we always wanted to have our own women’s team,” Al Naimi said.
“We have a serious bunch of girls who want to learn all they can,” he added.
Al Naimi said QCF was targetting next year’s Arab Road Championships.
Training camps across Europe are also on the agenda.
“I want our team to feature in the 2016 UCI Road World Championships (to be held in Qatar). We won’t be looking to challenge for the top slots but we want our team in good shape and riding at the world championships to be held here,” he said.
“We would like our team to finish all the races they feature at the World Championships in 2016. We will support the development of the team in any way we can,” Al Naimi said.
“We thought there would be some difficulty in forming a team like this but this is a great bunch of young girls who are keen to learn as much as they can. I hope one day I can see them on a podium. That would be a great feeling,” Al Naimi said.
Al Naimi said he was happy with the way new coach Sundstedt has bonded with the young
“She is doing fine with these girls. We were looking for a female coach from the Arab world but we are happy what she has done so far. The girls have also bonded with her well. We have a contract with her (Sundstedt) and we are happy with her services now,” he added. “Our young daughters have different mentality. They understand all that is taught to them,” he said.
“We are also mindful of the fact that these girls are studying. We won’t plan our training camps when they have exams. We will plan everything very meticulously,” Al Naimi said.
Qatar now joins the UAE as the only two Middle East countries with their own women’s teams. THE PENINSULA