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Saudi women triumph as first female wins international boxing gold

Ghamdi became the first Saudi woman to win an international boxing medal [Twitter]

Date of publication: 4 February, 2018

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Dona al-Ghamdi was crowned champion of the International Boxing Championship on Friday, heralding a new era of women and sports in the kingdom
Saudi Arabian boxer Dona al-Ghamdi has become the first woman from the kingdom to win an international boxing title, a victory for women's sports in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The young boxer triumphed in the International Boxing Championship held in Balqa, Jordan, on Friday, adding to her trophy collection of three black belts, four medals and several Arab titles, reported Arab News.

Dona first became hooked on the sport when she was studying in Jordan, and started going to the gym in a bid to lose weight. Her commitment to the sport meant she slimmed down from 155kg to 80kg in just nine months.

Dona told Al Arabiya during an interview last year that she was currently working to establish a boxing training centre for men, women and children in Riyadh, alongside her current coach.

The boxing champion added that her centre would train people with special needs for free.

Dona is a godsend for those in the kingdom working to modernise its image. When asked about being a woman in the sports world, the boxer responded, "all I care about is representing the kingdom. My message is that Saudi women can represent their country in all international arenas."

The country's education ministry announced last year it would allow physical education to be taught in public girls' schools, "in accordance with Islamic law standards" and would scale up "according to the possibilities available in each school," including sports halls and competent women instructorsin a move described as "historic". No sports facilities currently exist in public girls' schools, however.

Women-only gyms were also given licenses to run last year, in a bid to tackle growing health problems affecting the female population of the kingdom, where conservatives deem physical education for women immodest.

Also signalling a new era for women and sports in Saudi Arabia, has been the the lifting of a ban on women entering sports stadiums.

For women like Dona, this could include the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight final, which is set to be held in Jeddah in May this year.

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