With the Olympics over and the hype surrounding it slowing down around the world, Saudi athletes are still a hot topic in the Kingdom and sparking a fresh interest in sport that could launch a new generation of athletes.
Social media made it easier than ever to follow Tokyo 2020, with Saudis showing their support for competitors.
Karate, judo, running, rowing, shooting, football. Social media was flooded with pictures of these sports and updates on athletes’ performance in events. There was also sports analysis, videos, and backstories to catch up on.
This information shone a spotlight on competitors, but it also piqued the interest of tech-savvy and digitally connected youth in the Kingdom.
Parents, meanwhile, were looking for ways to keep their kids occupied and make good use of their time and health.
Parents said that being able to see Saudi participation in the Olympics had made a mark, with one telling Arab News: “Anything is possible and my kids have a chance if they put their mind to it, dedicate (their) time and effort, and want this.”
Waleed Al-Mutassim said his children were different from one another, just like any other family.
“My eldest is an e-gamer,” he told Arab News. “My daughter, who's the youngest, loves art, but the middle child, Mohammed, is very active. He practices karate, loves to get on his bike, plays football every week, and has been going to swimming practice for a little over four years now.”
Mohammed, who is 11, watched different swimmers during the Olympics and researched multiple sports.
“I can't say that I'd want to compete as an athlete, I don't know what I want,” he told Arab News. “But I'm still young, I'm still growing, and my coach says I have long legs to kick so maybe I can one day join the Saudi team.”
Waleed said if his son was serious about it that he would start looking into how he could enroll him in programs. “From what I've read, this is a long process, and it doesn't just happen in a day. There's more to it than just finding a good coach, this is a long-term relationship and my wife and I will support him."
Rizan Ahmed S. recently enrolled her son and niece in ice hockey classes. Although there are no Saudi Olympians in this discipline, the mother-of-two believed the sport was a fun and exciting one. Her son and niece wanted to try it out after watching all three “Mighty Ducks” movies.
“This summer was filled with a lot of club tryouts,” she told Arab News. “It was too hot for football, there's no gymnastics for boys, there are no basketball clubs for kids their age but, after hearing from an acquaintance about hockey, my interest grew and so did (that of) the kids.”
After watching all the “Mighty Ducks” films and grasping the concept of the sport, the kids enjoyed a few test trials before joining the team. She noticed their interest growing once Tokyo 2020 started.
“They were watching YouTube videos of different athletes on the ice at older winter Olympics and others playing field hockey, such as those who played in this year’s games. They both thought it was cool, and they're getting better at skating with each practice. This could turn into something great as there are no prejudices between boys and girls on the ice from what I can see, and they have so much energy. They want to soar like the ducks and quack, and it's good to see their interest peak. The game can help develop their skills on and off the ice, build friendships, learn team/player discipline and commit to something they love.”