Jordanian Shadia Bseiso is the first Arab woman to be signed by WWE and she's hoping to leave her mark on the sport entertainment industry.
A trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete and CrossFit enthusiast, Bseiso signed a developmental contract, becoming the first Arab woman from the Middle East to have the opportunity to train to become a WWE superstar.
She had attended WWE’s invitation-only talent tryout in Dubai earlier this year, where the talent pool included 40 men and women from the Middle East and India with diverse backgrounds in sports and athletics, including powerlifters, rugby and football players, amateur wrestlers, martial artists and fitness experts.
Bseiso’s athletic abilities, confidence, and natural charisma earned her the opportunity to begin training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida this January.
"My goal is to become WWE women's champion, get on the main roster and create a big impact," Bseiso told Sport360.
Egyptian duo Omar Nour and Omar Samra have amped up their preparations with less than two months to go before they sail off from La Gomera, Spain and row across the Atlantic Ocean to Antigua.
Nour, a professional triathlete, and Samra, and adventurer and mountaineer, decided to take on this Atlantic row challenge last April, with neither one of them having any previous rowing experience.
The pair have since gone through multiple challenges as part of their training, including a 100-hour row off the coast of Essex in the UK, where they faced extreme conditions and were pushed to their physical and mental limits.
Nour, a Dubai resident, sat down with Sport360 to share the highs and lows from that trip, and give us a taste of what it's like facing the elements in the middle of the sea on a small rowing boat.
From technological failures, to brutal weather, to sea sickness and health issues, Samra and Nour faced it all out at sea.
In their red, white and blue uniforms, Kuwait’s first female ice hockey team is training hard in the desert ahead of their debut world tournament later this month.
Affectionately dubbed the “ice ladies” by local media, athletes in hijab or with their hair hastily tied in topknots pull on their helmets before taking to the rink in the Kuwaiti capital — where temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius on a sunny October afternoon.
“It’s totally new, girls playing this sort of demanding sport here in Kuwait and in the Gulf, but it goes to show that in sports there is truly no difference between men and women,” said team player Bahar al-Harban.
Women on ice have grabbed headlines in the Gulf this year, with UAE national Zahra Lari gaining popularity on social media — and through a Nike campaign in the Middle East — as the Emirates’ first female figure skater and the first international figure skater to compete in hijab.
Kuwait’s women’s ice hockey team will play their first international game on October 30 at an event in Bangkok, according to the state-run KUNA news agency.
Fifty-six Kuwaiti women between the ages of 15 and 30 are now the proud owners of team jerseys emblazoned with their names on the back — some of them mothers who frequently bring their children to training.
But while the athletes have the support of their teammates and, increasingly, of their communities, what they lack is their own training facility. For now, they still rent the ice rink in a state-run ski lounge.
“We need facilities dedicated to training women to convince families that that their daughters need to be involved in sports,” said Sheikha Naima Al-Sabah, president of the Kuwaiti Women’s Sports Authority.
“We initially faced some resistance due to social traditions, but the culture of women in sports is spreading and we’re not regular faces at Asian tournaments,” she told AFP.
“So we are progressing, but slowly, because some of our girls immediately marry at a certain age — or because they choose to wear hijab in a world where you’re not allowed into certain sports if you choose to wear hijab”.
International basketball governing body FIBA in May rescinded a ban on hijab and other forms of religious headcovers, which on the grounds that they could potentially fall off and pose a risk to players.
But with its oversized jerseys, shin guards and helmets, hockey is a good fit for many of the Kuwaiti national team players.
“As you see, the uniform totally covers everything,” said team player Khaleda Abdel Karim during a break in practice.
“So I personally find no difficulties at all in that sense,” she smiled, adding that the team had received strong support from both Kuwait’s government and the public.
Despite the warm welcome the team has received, the women are still fighting to both secure the best for their athletes — and to overcome culture challenges both at home and abroad.
“In order to get the best results, you need to be given the best training,” said Sheikha Naima of the sports authority.
“What we need are good coaches, professional trainers. I don’t want… just any coach for my girls”.