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Zahra Lari at the Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Gulf News archive

She is all of 26 years, but Zahra Lari has already done her country proud as an Emirati National Champion who has opened up doors for young hopefuls like her in the UAE who are carving their own path to success.

As the first Emirati figure skater, and also the first in her chosen sport to compete on an international stage wearing a headscarf, Lari has known from a young age what it feels to hold the UAE flag high on a global platform.

Speaking to Gulf News ahead of the Year of the 50th National Day celebrations, Lari shares a message of hope for young Emirati girls living in the UAE who dare to dream. “My message to all of you is to go after your dreams because anything is possible in the UAE,” says Lari.

Using her own example, Lari says as the first, there was never any precedent set for a woman from the UAE to find success in a sport that was the polar opposite of the landscape surrounding her in a desert country. “I took the punches to smoothen the way for others who came after, so never let anyone tell you otherwise,” she reveals. “Today, to be the first figure skater wearing a headscarf in the world makes me really happy and very proud. I am very honoured to be able to represent all Muslim girls out there.”

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Zahra Lari Image Credit: Gulf News archive

As the UAE stands on the cusp of turning 50, Lari feels a moment of pride as a daughter of the country and a proud Emirati. “I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished in a really short time. I mean 50 years and look at what we have achieved. Today, I see people from all over the world who want to come here. This is the place to be.”

While Lari’s travels have taken her to Switzerland as she trains for her ultimate goal, to compete in the Winter Olympics and represent the UAE, her heart remains here as celebrations sweep across the nation on December 2.

“I am very proud to say I am Emirati. And I think from here we are just going up and up and up…,” she trails off. “I would like to wish all Emiratis and everyone here living in the UAE a Happy National Day and leave with this parting message: There is nothing impossible for the UAE.”