ABU DHABI // Seventeen women were honoured yesterday at the Abu Dhabi Sports Council for their athletic achievements.
The award ceremony, which honoured pioneers and distinguished female athletes as well as sports volunteers, was held on behalf of the Emirates Women's Sports Committee.
Among the athletic achievers were Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid, President of the Zabeel Karate Club, Sheikha Shamsa bint Hasher Al Maktoum, from the UAE Volleyball Association and Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum from the Emirates Equestrian Federation.
Honourees Mona Ahmad Salem and Aisha Shahrear Mohammed, who have been weight lifting for two years, said their coach, Najwan al Zawawi, was their source of inspiration. "She always motivated us and pushed us beyond our limits," Ms Salem said. "She's the main reason why we decided to start weight lifting."
Ms Salem and Ms Mohammed, both 18, said that weight lifting presented them with an interesting challenge: breaking the stereotype that weight lifting was only a man's sport.
"We don't hear of other women participating in this sport, and so we wanted to be one of the first who took the initiative and continue through until the end," Ms Salem said.
Ms Mohammed has made it a mission not to let gender roles hinder her athletic and academic abilities. A student at a military college, Ms Mohammed said she always had a keen interest in army life.
"It was just a thought I always wanted to experience," she said.
When asked if she would consider enlisting in the army, she said, "No. I fight by competing in sport, not war."
Thirty-four-year old Anisa al Shadadi is the first Emirati woman to receive an international certificate in doping control. After receiving her certificate, she attended the Asian sports games in 2006, where she was responsible for making sure athletes were not taking drugs.
In addition to this achievement, Ms Shadadi was named the best volleyball player for a 2002 GCC competition, and is currently captain of the ladies volleyball team.
"Athletics has been a passion since I was young," she said. "It's something I do for my health, my future as a mother and my children."
All honourees agreed that participating in athletics not only gives women self-confidence, but also a place in the community. "It helps in establishing her role in society, and it's a change from always sitting at home," Ms Mohammed said. "We've had enough of that."
Maryam Fozan, 45, a hockey player and a teacher at Al Sondos Kindergarden in Sharjah, said that engaging in sports activities is not only important for women socially, but also for their general well-being.