UAE karateka Hawra Al Ajami and fencer Fajr Al Marzouqi playing host to the Arab Women Sports Tournament announcement in Sharjah on Tuesday. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: The seventh edition of the Arab Women Sports Tournament (AWST) is set to witness 550 sportswomen from 14 countries compete for top honours in eight events from February 2-12.

Organised by the Sharjah Women’s Sports Foundation, under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the annual event aims to foster strong relationships with Arab countries and also help UAE’s strategy towards Olympics goals.

Strategic goals

“The competition provides an opportunity for Arab women to feel empowered and to be able to benchmark against their fellow Arab players and at the same time, measure their own technical level. All of these clubs and countries have their own plan and path towards the Olympics and have strategic goals, so it is a great opportunity to assess their plans,” Hanan Al Mahmoud, Vice-Chairman of Arab Women Sports Tournament Higher Steering Committee, told Gulf News.

“Engaging with the community helps us to spread sports in general as a healthy lifestyle to increase your quality of life. At the same time, we’re hoping that we can help us foster stronger relationships with our fellow Arab countries. It’s also serving us in Sharjah to assess our own teams on our way to the Olympics.”

Sheikh Khalid, Hanan Al Mahmoud and Noura Al Shamsi during the press conference on Tuesday. Image Credit: Supplied

A total of 61 teams will compete in eight disciplines, namely volleyball, table tennis, basketball, shooting, archery, fencing, athletics and karate. UAE and Iraq lead the charge by taking part in all eight events followed by Bahrain in seven.

Olympic 2032 target

Athletics will witness the highest participation with 12 teams, followed by volleyball with nine teams, and basketball and karate with eight teams each. Volleyball ranks third with seven teams, while archery and fencing competitions will feature six teams each, and shooting will have five teams. The events will be held at eight venues across Sharjah.

“In line with our National Olympic agenda, our main target is 2032 Olympic Games. We want to participate in the Games by qualification and not by invitation. We have identified individual sports like archery, fencing and some specific athletic events, which give us the chance for us to get medals. So we are working in parallel to this national agenda,” Al Mahmoud added. “At the same time, we are hoping to on-board as many new players as possible so we have a lot of projects that are targeting kids as young as being in kindergarten and growing with them in order to expose them to as many types of sports as possible and dive-in into specification at older ages. So that will help us with the second generation and build the correct foundation for the pyramid that will get us medals.”

Hanan Al Mahmoud feels the Arab Women Sports Tournament has seen a massive growth in the last few years. Image Credit: Supplied

Grand opening ceremony

Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of AWST Higher Steering Committee, Issa Hilal Al Hazami, Chairman of the Sharjah Sports Council and Noura Al Shamsi, Director of AWST also attended the announcement ceremony on Tuesday at Al Jada, along with several officials.

The Arab Women Sports Tournament has seen a massive growth in the last few years. The first edition had about 100-150 participants from five countries, but now 14 countries are taking part in eight disciplines.

The grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday at the Al Majaz Amphitheatre with a thrilling set of performances and activities open for public.