Saudi Arabian woman's hopes of making history at London 2012 ruined by injury
Monday, 25 June 2012
June 25 - The only Saudi Arabian female who had a realistic chance of qualifying to compete at London 2012 by right will miss the Olympics even though her country has lifted its ban on women representing the country.
Showjumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas, who won the bronze medal at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games at Singapore in 2010, will be forced to miss the Games because of an injury to her horse.
The 20-year-old had been aiming to achieve the minimum eligibility standard required for the Olympic Games by the deadline of June 17, but the injury forced her horse to miss a month's work during the qualifying period, the world governing body FEI have announced.
The 12-year-old Swedish warmblood mare Caramell KS, which was bought from Swedish rider Svante Johansson at the end of 2011, was found to be suffering from a back problem, putting an end to Malhas' hopes of qualifying for London 2012.
"There have been some reports in the media, but regretfully the Saudi Arabian rider Dalma Rushdi Malhas has not attained the minimum eligibility standards and consequently will not be competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games", FEI secretary general Ingmar De Vos said.
"However, we understand that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has a number of other female athletes from Saudi Arabia in other sports who are currently under consideration.
"The FEI is very proud to have been the International Federation to field the first female athlete from Saudi Arabia at the Youth Olympic Games when Dalma won individual bronze in the jumping, and we very much look forward to seeing her on the Olympic stage again."
The news comes less than a day after the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) announced that they would pick female competitors for the first time since they made their debut in the Games at Munich in 1972 following worldwide pressure.
It robs the American-born Rushdi Malhas of an historic opportunity of being the first woman to represent Saudi at a major international event having competed at Singapore in 2010 under the flag of the IOC.
"It would have been a great opportunity to have a female athlete on the Saudi equestrian team but Dalma is young and she is determined to represent Saudi Arabia at the highest level, so we have great hopes for Rio 2016," said Dalma's mother Arwa Mutabagani.
Arwa Mutabagani has been very active in nurturing the growth of equestrian sport in Saudi Arabia.
Her work was officially recognised in April 2008 when she was appointed as the first female Board member of the Saudi Equestrian Federation.
She was also the only female member of the SAOC delegation at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
A spokesman for the IOC told insidethegames that they were still hopeful of female athletes representing Saudi Arabia at London 2012.
"We do have the possibility of a number of saudi athletes participating in London," he said.
"We are very hopeful indeed that there will be female saudi athletes taking part."
June 2012: Tim Woodhouse - Saudi Arabia's decision on female athletes is more symbolic than revolutionary
June 2012: Saudi Arabia to allow women to compete at London 2012
May 2012: Rogge refuses to give Saudi Arabia escape route by letting women compete under IOC flag
April 2012: Saudi Arabia at centre of new London 2012 scandal
April 2012: Alan Hubbard - Time for Jacques Rogge to man up and show Saudi Arabia the red card