The Arab Women Sports Tournament is gearing up for its biggest ever event, hosting 68 teams from 16 countries, represented by more than 1,000 athletes and administrative personnel.
Launched in 2012, the tournament, which is held every two years, has become a must-attend event in the Arab sporting calendar, bringing together world-class athletes to compete in a unique environment.
Running from February 2-12, the 11-day event is being held in ten venues across Sharjah under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs and Chairperson of Sharjah Women Sports Foundation (SWSF).
Also attending will be Khalid Abdulaziz, Egyptian Minister of Youth; Shaikha Hayat Bint Abdul Aziz Al Khalifa, member of the Bahraini National Olympic Committee and Chairperson of AWST Follow-up and Supervision; Engineer Sherif Al Aryan, Secretary General of the Egyptian Olympics Committee; HE Nada Askar Al Naqbi, Deputy Head of the SOC, Head of its Executive Committee and Director General of SWSF; and Nour El Sherbini, Egyptian world squash champion.
Held under the theme ‘The World Is Your Court – Together Victorious,’ the tournament is hosting 16 Arab countries represented by 68 teams competing in nine sporting disciplines: basketball, volleyball, table tennis, athletics, archery, shooting, fencing, show jumping, and Karate, which is making its debut at AWST 2018.
With 68 teams this year, compared to 51 that took part in the 2016 tournament, the figures reflect not only the highest level of competition, but also the success of AWST in terms of organisation, preparation and promotion. This adds a new benchmark to Sharjah’s record of advancing women’s status in all field.
The 16 countries taking part are the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Morrocco and Djibouti.
The UAE is represented by the Sharjah Women’s Sports Club, which will compete for top podium places in all nine sporting events.
Also participating from the UAE are Al Wasl Club, which is taking part in the volleyball competitions, Bani Yas Club in fencing, Al Nasr Sports Club in Karate and Al Ain Sports Club in archery.
Egyptian pair Omar Samra and Omar Nour — Team O2 — survived a storm that capsized their boat and left them deserted for 12 hours in the ocean before they were rescued by a cargo ship, as the pair saw their Atlantic Challenge campaign come to an end.
Samra and Nour were attempting to become the first Egyptians to row across the Atlantic ocean as part of a race that set off from San Sebastian de La Gomera in Spain on Thursday December 14 towards Antigua.
Their first week on the boat was rough, with power frequently shutting off on the boat, which meant they had to manually hand-pump drinking water, and with difficult weather conditions working against them, leaving them exhausted, dehydrated, and sea-sick.
On Friday morning, the official Facebook account of the race, Atlantic Campaigns, posted the news that the emergency beacon of Team O2’s boat was set off and that they had been unable to communicate with them.
The following message was later posted on the team’s social channels on Saturday night explaining what happened.
“Yesterday (Friday) at 8.30am, Team 02 were hit by 45 knot winds that caused their boat to capsize – their boat did not self-right,” read the post.
“The 12 hours that followed became a survival story of epic proportions.
“The team is now safe onboard a 200m Greek-German cargo ship that came to their aid and was able to bring them onboard after 3-4 hours of rescue attempts in worsening conditions. Omar Nour and Omar Samra finally made it aboard the vessel last night at 8:45p.m. It also turns out that the ship’s captain and senior officers are Egyptian…what are the chances?!
“The ship is not fancy by any means but the 19 men on the ‘Kefalonia’ have provided them with generous support and hospitality. The two Omars now have a hot meal in their bellies and the first full night of sleep in days – they are incredibly happy to be safe and alive to tell their tale.
“Luckily, the ship is bound for Northern Spain and should hopefully reach port by December 28th – the boys should be back home for New Year’s. Once back, they will be recounting the details of their survival story.
“The past 24 hours have made it clear just how dangerous an expedition such as this can be – and how important it is to have professional and supportive partners. Team O2 have to thank DHL Express for their support over the past year. Team O2 might not have made it to Antigua but this is not the end of their adventure.”
Nour is diabetic and since the cargo ship that rescued them did not have insulin on-board, him and Samra were evacuated by a helicopter and made it to Tenerife on Sunday morning.
The daring Egyptian duo of professional triathlete Omar Nour and adventurer Omar Samra, dubbed ‘Team O2’, set off on Thursday in the world’s toughest rowing race – an unsupported, 3,000 nautical mile journey from San Sebastian, La Gomera in the Spanish Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua.
The perilous journey is part of an annual ocean-rowing race called the Atlantic Challenge. 28 teams from 17 countries descended on La Gomera this week to take part in the 2017 race. If Nour and Samra successfully complete the gruelling crossing, Team O2 will be the first Arab team to row across an ocean. They are also setting off with a close watch on the world record for pairs, which is 40 days, 4 hours and 3 minutes.
Nour and Samra have been preparing for the gruelling challenge for 10 months. Their preparation has included high-intensity physical conditioning to morph their bodies into that of elite rowers – the athletes have added a combined 27 kilos of body weight which they expect to lose over the course of the crossing, and have completed over 200 hours of rowing on their boat.
As well as the physical, the duo have undergone significant mental and medical training to ensure their safety during the row, completing courses such as the RYA Yacht-master Ocean Theory, First Aid at Sea, Sea Survival and a VHF Radio License. They have also learnt how to self-administer IV drips, and Nour, a type 1 diabetic, has been fitted with a continuous glucose monitor that sets off an alarm to alert his teammate should his blood sugar drop below a critical level.
The boat, named ‘Jan’, is 7.5m long x 1.8m wide and built of wood, fibre glass, carbon fibre and Kevlar. It is equipped with a water-maker to change the sea water into drinking water; solar panels to power GPS and other vital electrical equipment; 90 days’ worth of food rations; medical kits; tracking beacons; an ‘AIS’ allowing O2 to communicate with passing vessels; a satellite telephone and specially designed laptop called a ‘tough book’ to allow O2 to communicate with the outside world.
A small cabin is the only protection O2 will have against the might of the ocean. When the weather proves too much for the boat and it capsizes, it is able to self-right.
Nour and Samra met in 2013 and became firm friends, united by a passion for sports and adventure. Nour has represented Egypt on the Olympic triathlete circuit, while Samra was the first Egyptian to climb Everest, and the 7 Summits. He’s also skied to both the North and South Pole.
“I can’t believe this is it – we’re finally on the start line!” Nour said from the start line in La Gomera. “The preparation we’ve gone through to get to this point has been intense – no outside assistance is permitted during the crossing, as soon as we row out of this harbor we are at the mercy of the elements – so its been imperative that we get every single detail locked down.
“It’s been incredible to have our whole support team here in La Gomera over the last week – our family, friends and the team from DHL – and to meet the other 27 teams. It really brings it home that we are part of something big. We truly hope we make everyone proud!”
His team-mate had also been waiting with excitement to get going.
“I’ve never been happier to get to a start line!” Samra said. “Although I have a good amount of experience as a mountain and polar adventurer, one thing is for sure – the ocean is very different to mountains and ice! I’ve learned so much through over the last 10 months and we truly couldn’t have done it without the support of the team around us, including our partners at DHL.
“There will no doubt be challenges along this incredible journey – when you’re faced with 50-foot waves, blisters, salt rash and sleep deprivation, that’s a given! But we’re as ready as we can be, and excited to get out there and show the world what you can do if you set your mind to it.”
The first successful Atlantic Ocean crossing was completed by Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway in 1966 – a 92-day battle against hurricanes, 50 foot waves and near starvation. Sir Chay Blyth made a guest appearance at the start line today in La Gomera to set the race off.
Team O2 are proud to partner with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to help raise awareness of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and around the world.
You can track Team O2’s progress across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the other 27 teams, on www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com, as well as get regular updates live from Team O2 on their social media channels.