Injury to her horse has meant that Saudi Arabia’s Dalma Rushdi Malhas has been unable to meet the qualifying standards for the London 2012 Olympics.
Had she made the cut, the 20-year-old would have been the first female athlete on the Saudi Olympic equestrian team.
Saudi Arabia officials said this month that some of its female athletes will be allowed to compete at the Olympics for the first time, a reversal from April when it was declared that women would not be allowed to compete. Now, apparently, Saudi women will be allowed to compete if they can be dressed “to preserve their dignity.”
Malhas, who won individual bronze at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010, had been aiming to achieve the minimum eligibility standard required for the Olympics by the June 17 deadline, but her horse was sidelined by injury and missed a month’s work during the qualifying period.
The 12-year-old Swedish warmblood mare Caramell KS, who was bought from Swedish rider Svante Johansson at the end of 2011, was found to be suffering from a back problem, putting an end to the rider’s hopes of qualifying for London 2012.
“There have been some reports in the media [regarding 'invitations' to compete at the Games], but regretfully the Saudi Arabian rider Dalma Rushdi Malhas has not attained the minimum eligibility standards and consequently will not be competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games”, FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos said.
“However, we understand that the IOC has a number of other female athletes from Saudi Arabia in other sports who are currently under consideration.
“The FEI is very proud to have been the International Federation to field the first female athlete from Saudi Arabia at the Youth Olympic Games when Dalma won individual bronze in the jumping, and we very much look forward to seeing her on the Olympic stage again,” de Vos said.
“It would have been a great opportunity to have a female athlete on the Saudi equestrian team,” Dalma’s mother, Arwa Mutabagan, said, “but Dalma is young and she is determined to represent Saudi Arabia at the highest level, so we have great hopes for Rio 2016.”
Arwa Mutabagani has been very active in nurturing the growth of equestrian sport in Saudi Arabia. Her work was officially recognised in April 2008 when she was appointed as the first female board member of the Saudi Equestrian Federation. She was also the only female member of the Saudi Olympic Committee delegation at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Earlier this year, Dalma spoke at the IOC Women And Sport conference in Los Angeles, expressing her determination to reach the top of her chosen sport. “I cannot yet compare myself to the riders of the Saudi first team, but I am determined to give my best to reach their level one day, and prove that all women athletes, all over the world, should be given equal opportunities.”