Saudi Arabia looks to show jumping for medal success in Paris Olympic Games

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Talk of Saudi Arabia bidding to host the Summer Games in 2036 is a little premature and for now the country’s Olympic Committee is focused on ensuring a good showing in Paris in July and August, media chief Abdulaziz Albaqous has told Reuters.

The oil-rich Kingdom has emerged as a major player in world sport over the last few years with eye-watering investments earning the country a place at the top table in football, golf, motor racing and other high-profile sports.

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In Olympic terms, however, Saudi Arabia remains a minnow, its two silvers and two bronzes from 12 Summer Games placing it between Peru and Syria on the all-time total medals table.

The team of 33 athletes that competed in Tokyo three years ago was the largest delegation they had ever sent to a Summer Games and Tareg Hamedi’s silver medal in karate ensured they did not come home empty-handed.

Karate will not feature at the Paris Games and Albaqous, director of corporate communications and international relations for the Saudi Olympic Committee, said the country would be looking very much at show jumping for its medal success.

“This is the first participation of Saudi equestrian since the London Olympics,” Albaqous told Reuters.

“It previously achieved team bronze in 2012 and individual bronze in 2000 but missed Rio Olympics and the Tokyo Games. Now we have returned.”

Horses have been an integral part of life on the Arabian Peninsula for thousands of years.

A budget reported at $500 million secured prized British horses for the 2012 Olympic campaign, which helped Ramzy al-Duhami, Abdullah al-Saud, Kamal Bahamdan and Abdullah Sharbatly place third in the show jumping final.

For Paris, top British mare Equine America Spacecake was sold to the Saudi Equestrian Federation at the end of 2022 and helped the country qualify with Khaled Almobty in the saddle.

“This was the result of a special equestrian project in order to return to the Games,” Albaqous said.

In addition to Almobty and team mates Ramzy al-Duhami, Abdullah Sharbatly and Abdul Rahman al-Rajhi, one other Saudi athlete has already qualified for Paris.

Taekwondo athlete Donia Abu Talib became the first female from the country to qualify for the Olympics.

“It is something that distinguishes our delegation at the Paris Olympics,” Albaqous said.

“Donia is a good player ... may God grant her success. It is expected that players will qualify in athletics and there are still qualifiers to come in judo and table tennis.”

With the Saudis hosting the 2027 Asian Cup and all but certainly the 2034 World Cup in soccer, as well as the 2034 Asian Games, talk of a Saudi bid for the next available Summer Olympics in 2036 is almost inevitable.

“Of course, the Kingdom always aspires to host any important international event but it is too early to talk about the Olympics,” Albaqous said.

With Reuters

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