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Awesome threesome - Oman motorsports' female champions


Three courageous young Omani women foray into motorsports, a supposedly male sporting bastion in Oman, and challenge experienced karting drivers during the Ramadan Motorsports Festival. Photo - Hi Weekly

When they trudged towards the pavilion after a gruelling training session, on a sweltering evening last month, the three women resembled like astronauts who would soon embark on an ambitious space mission.

The abrasion resistant overall suits, full-face helmets, rough black gloves and the boots that covered anklets weaved an aura of invincibility around them. Their body language spoke volumes of their high levels of confidence. Excitement was writ large on their faces, and their eyes sparkled as they shared a thought or two about the tough challenges ahead. They weren't dreaming of venturing into the outer space, but they were out to conquer a supposedly male sporting bastion in the Sultanate. 

Plenty of women might have left a lasting legacy in motorsports elsewhere, but their Omani counterparts always kept a safe distance from the adventurous discipline that needs concentration, perseverance and high intensity training. But the scenario is about to change, thanks to the heroics of Shatha Al Zadjali, Halima Al Kindi and Maryam Al Moosa, who successfully forayed into Kart Racing, considered as the stepping stone to higher echelons of motorsports.

They have been training hard at the Oman Automobile Association's state-of-the-art Muscat Speedway, the name of the re-branded karting arena, for almost three months. They walk into the arena any time of their choice, be it in the evening, night and even at the stroke of midnight to fine-tune their skills in negotiating curves, thwarting rival aggression and stepping up the gas at appropriate time.

Last week, they found themselves in the cauldron of competitive racing as they challenged experienced drivers from the Gulf Region during the Ramadan Motorsports Festival, which began at the Oman Automobile Association Ground on July 3. The strong field didn't intimidate them. On the contrary, they rose to the occasion, finished ahead of many male competitors and thus left an indelible impression in the circuit.

"I am very happy to get such a wonderful debut at the Oman Automobile Association's magnificent karting track last Thursday, where 18 experienced drivers vied for top honours. Women representation in motorsports has to increase in Oman, and I hope our efforts will bring about major changes," said Shatha Al Zadjali, who works with Oman Oil. Halima and Maryam too nodded their heads in agreement. Halima, who is employed with Omran, is not averse to idea of turning into a professional karting driver one day, while Maryam, who works with Bank of Beirut, wants to compete in more events to fine-tune her skills.

But will it be tough for the three working women to make a mark in a physically demanding sport? "It is just the passion for motorsports that keeps me going. That is why I visit the Muscat Speedway at least two times a week, even after hectic office hours," said Halima.

The beginning
Shatha got hooked to karting early this year when she visited the Muscat Speedway during her company's team building exercise. "I decided to try it after I saw many drivers cruising on the track. Much to my surprise, I got a good grip during the trial. It boosted my confidence. Then I began practicing regularly, and my skills kept on improving. I made a lot of mistakes, but I learnt from them," she reminisced.

In the beginning, she preferred to train during off-peak hours. "At first, I thought it would be better to train when the place was less crowded. Once I grew in confidence, I began to opt for peak training hours. It helped me brush up my overtaking, manoeuvring skills thanks to the presence of plenty of karts around."

Being a passionate car lover and racing aficionado, karting became a natural choice for Maryam. "Karting is for anyone who loves cars and racing. Besides, I firmly believe that there is no place for gender discrimination in motorsports."

Halima adds further: "Those who look for excitement should try karting at least once in their lifetime, and I am sure they will get addicted to it."

Good workout
The threesome believes that karting is an excellent workout for the upper body, and it helps them keep perfect shape. "Karting strengthens the upper body. It is a heavy workout where I burn huge amounts of calories. Obviously, it helped me shed considerable amount of weight." Shatha confessed.

Halima extolled the virtues of karting. "It helps me boost my concentration. When I am in the driver's seat, I have to control the car, adjust its speed, negotiate the curves, and device strategies to keep opponents at bay. You need strength to do all these functions. It is a good workout that helps me burn calories. Ultimately, it is a huge stress reliever after a hectic work hours. I feel fresh when I step out of the track." 

Meanwhile, Suleiman Al Rawahi, Managing Director, Oman Automobile Association believe the three courageous young women need the support of the sporting fraternity for their brave efforts. "The Ramadan Motorsports Festival saw the birth of women karting team who will compete in the individual as well as team endurance events. I am so proud of their feat, and hope they will scale new heights in their chosen sport," he said.

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