A young scholarship student in the US is looking to put Saudi Arabia on the map in a sport where no Saudi has competed professionally at this level before.
Bander Saleh, 24, is competing with America’s best snowboarders and made it to the US Snowboarding Nationals that will take place beginning April in Copper Mountain, Colorado.
In a fierce competition, he first made it through the regionals in the freestyle category. Coming out on top in Slope Style 3 and winning Bronze in SlopeStyle AFP during the North Tahoe regional qualifiers, Bander is now ranked in the top 50 in the US.
Although the sport was new to him when he arrived to the US to complete his university studies, Bander says his passion for snowboarding and continuous practice led him to reach where he is today.
To beat the local competition and make it to the Nationals wasn’t easy for him. “I’d literally never seen snow while living in Saudi and I’m competing with guys who grew up on boards,” he said. “But from the first time I tried it, I knew this was going to be my sport.”
Enjoys the challenge
Snowboarding is a dynamic sport that has similarities with other sports he plays. “Skating in Riyadh helped me prepare for the physical challenge of snowboarding and helped me learn the ways to move and shift my body for the various maneuverings necessary to compete at this high level,” he told Saudi Gazette.
He says when snowboarding, he enjoys the speed, challenge, and beauty of the mountains. “It’s very fun and I enjoy the technical challenge of the extreme Freestyle tricks,” he said.
Bander calls it “very exciting times” back home where the government’s new initiatives by the General Authority for Sports and the Sports Development Fund under the National Transformation Program 2020 are working to promote healthy lifestyles. “Exercise improves quality of life,” he said. “My physical fitness helps me reach my goals.”
His ultimate goal is to participate in the January 2019 ‘X GAMES’ in Aspen, Colorado.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.
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