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.
Egyptian champion swimmer Farida Osman is hoping her latest achievement, of winning the Mohammed bin Rashid Creative Sports Award last week, can inspire young Arab women to pursue sport, and prove to the world that females from this region can excel at the highest level.
The 22-year-old Osman became the first Egyptian — male or female — to claim a medal at a World Aquatics Championship in the pool when she took 50m butterfly bronze in Budapest last July. She shared the podium with swimming superstars Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Sarah Sjostrom, and was given a hero’s welcome when she returned back to Egypt.
Her feats earned her the ‘Distinguished Athlete’s Achievement’ award at the MBR Creative Sports Award ceremony in Dubai last week, where Osman’s fellow Egyptian Nour El Sherbini, the world No. 1 in squash, was also honoured.
“Winning with Nour is I think something very important to Arab women, because we are representing Arab, Egyptian women, so the fact that we won this award is just getting awareness and attention from people all over the world that Arab, Egyptian women are capable of competing at the highest level, of being great athletes,” the two-time Olympian told Sport360.
“Hopefully we can use this platform to show the world that we’re capable of competing in sports. So we’re defying the odds and hopefully we will inspire and encourage other young female Arab, Egyptian athletes to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals. So hopefully we are good role models for them.”
El Sherbini has been at the top of the squash world rankings for the past 20 consecutive months, and has been making history for Egypt in the sport — winning the British Open, the World Championship and a slew of other prestigious titles.
Happy and proud to win the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award as best Arab Athlete Thank you United Arab of Emirates and everyone who voted and chosen me for this award also Congratulations to Farida Osman for winning the Sports Achievement of the year. pic.twitter.com/bzzmLvMDRf
— Nour el Sherbini (@noursherbini) November 28, 2017
Osman, who has smashed multiple records during her time swimming for UC Berkeley in the NCAA, is back in the United States, pursuing a Masters degree and continuing with her career in the pool, keeping an eye on Tokyo 2020.
She says she’s far from done with the sport and that getting recognised for her swimming is a big motivation to keep going.
“This award means so much to me because it represents what I’ve been working hard for, all my training, all these years, so having to be able to get recognised and acknowledged after all this hard work and this really hard journey is just an amazing feeling. And getting recognised in general, this is what helps athletes to keep going and keep pursuing what they want to achieve,” added Osman.
The MBR Creative Sports Award is not just of great prestige, but it also comes with a significant monetary value, that can help sustain Osman’s career.
“Honestly money wasn’t really my drive to continue swimming or to perform well,” she admits. “I always try to believe and know that I only swim for myself and all these achievements are to me personally, not for the money. Of course money kind of gives you motivation but it’s not the number one driving force. I feel like my number one driving force is just me achieving my goals. And having money on the side is like a bonus.”
FULL LIST OF MBR CREATIVE SPORTS AWARD WINNERS
UAE Sports Personality Award: HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (UAE)
Arab Sports Personality Award: HRH Princess Rima bint Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud (KSA)
UAE Outstanding Athlete Award: Omar Abdul Rahman Al AMoodi (Football)
UAE Referee Award: Ebrahim Yousef Al Mansoori (Beach Soccer)
UAE Coach Award: Saeed Bin Suroor Al Khaldi (Horse Racing)
UAE Organisation Award: UAE Jiu Jitsu Federation
Arab Outstanding Athlete Award: Nour Atef El Sherbini (Egypt – Squash)
Arab Administrator Award: Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Al Gannas (KSA)
Arab Referee Award: Tarek Bin Mohamed Souei (Tunisia)
Arab Coach Award: Faris Ibrahim Al Assaf (Jordan)
Arab Team Award: Iraqi Youth Football Team U16
International Organisation Award (Association of Summer Olympic International Federations): Union Cycliste International (UCI)
International Organisation Award (Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations): International Cricket Council (ICC)
UAE Emerging Athlete Award (Nominees – voting to continue until December 31)
1. Hussain Yousuf Anwar (Football)
2. Ammar Mohammed Al Sedrani (Chess)
3. Maitha Abdulla Hasan (Judo)
4. Wadima Saeed Abdulla (Jiu Jitsu)
5. Omar Mohammed Alwan (Jiu Jitsu)
6. Abdalla Guhloom Al Maazimi (Taekwondo)
Arab Emerging Athlete Award: Mohammed Mustafa Al Sowaiq (KSA – Taekwondo)
Distinguished Athletes Achievement Sports Award: Farida Hisham Osman (Egypt – Swimming)
Difficult Challenges Award (People of Determination Category)
1. Abdellatif Baka (Algeria – Athletics)
2. Fouad Baka (Algeria – Athletics)
Olympic Creative Sports Award
1. Mohammed Gammoudi (Tunisia – Athletics)
2. Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco – Athletics)
Kuwaiti professional BMX rider Mansour Al Safran is one of his country's most talented and popular sportsman.
The 26-year-old, who took to the two wheels of the BMX bike at the age of 14, immediately developed a strong passion for the freestyle sport, which sees riders scale incredible heights at speed, make airborne twists and turns and gravity-defying tricks.
While the lack of facilities for extreme sports in general hindered Al Safran's initial progress as a rider in Kuwait, it's now a different story as Al Safran knows first-hand.
The Skate Park Adventure in Abu Dhabi, Skate Park in Lebanon and Trampo in Kuwait, among others, have given riders and adrenaline junkies new places to ply their trade throughout the Gulf.
"Growing up finding places to train was difficult but times have changed now and the support for extreme sports in the region is now stronger than ever," Al Safran, who now helps to grow his profession and judge competitions, said.