Over the summer, the Saudi Arabian government decided that young girls could take physical education classes. In September, the Saudi Arabian government announced that they would allow women to drive beginning in June 2018. Two months later, they said that women would be allowed to attend sporting events in stadiums beginning in 2018.
Now, Saudi Arabia is going to have to get ready for even more changes, this time driven by the success of one of its female citizens.
Earlier this month, 20-year-old Dona Mohammad Al Ghamdi became the first Saudi woman to win the International Boxing Championship. This year’s championship was held in Jordan, a country that holds a special place in Al Ghamdi’s heart.
Al Ghamdi started boxing in an attempt to lose weight after she graduated high school, but she didn’t get serious about the sport until she visited her sister at college in Jordan. While there, Al Ghamdi met a fitness trainer who helped her gain the motivation she needed to attack her goal head-on.
“With time, I learned a lot about fitness and the secrets of fitness boxing,” Al Ghamdi said. “I lost many kilos thanks to the intensive training, and in the course of the training, I developed a passion for the sport. I decided to keep on practising. My trainer, following nine months of assiduous work, encouraged me to go professional.”
And she did. When she went back to Saudi Arabia, Al Ghamdi met a personal trainer who was ready to help her go for the gold, despite barriers for women athletes in the country.
“The offer was irresistible and I continued to practice and subsequently won fights and medals,” Al Ghamdi said. “I signed up for pan-Arab competitions and bagged two medals in my first competition. In the second championship, I won a silver medal and in the third, the Arab Boxing Championship, held in Jordan, I won the gold.”
Al Ghamdi’s passion for boxing isn’t stopping there. After seeing how boxing helped her raise her own confidence, she has decided to partner with her trainer and open up her own boxing training center for men, women, and children.
This gym could help inspire other women to try their hand at sports, despite Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative, patriarchal society.
“All I care about is representing the kingdom,” Al Ghamdi said. “My message is that Saudi women can represent their country in all international arenas.”
She is also a firm believer that women should also try boxing for fun or as a way to work toward a healthier lifestyle. But no matter why Saudi women decide to try out boxing, or any other sport for that matter, Al Ghamdi has helped opened up possibilities for the country’s budding athletes.
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