Amenah Al Muhairi: Emirati snowboarder taking historic Winter Youth Olympics in her stride

The 15-year-old talks to The National about being the first female snowboarder from the UAE to take part in the Games, how she discovered her passion for the sport, and what the future holds

First UAE female snowboarder to compete in the Winter Youth Olympics

First UAE female snowboarder to compete in the Winter Youth Olympics
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Amenah Al Muhairi remembers exactly what she said after competing at the Snowboard Junior World Championships in Cardrona, New Zealand last summer.

“Before, I was so hyped and once we got into it I had so much fun. Coming out of it, if you ask my mom, probably the first sentence I said was, ‘I want to do this again’. I knew that this was for me,” she recalled.

By “this”, Al Muhairi meant she wanted to showcase her talents while competing against the world’s top snowboarders in her age group. She didn’t have to wait too long for that to happen again.

This week in South Korea, 15-year-old Al Muhairi will make history as the UAE’s first female snowboarder to take part in a Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Gangwon 2024 will be the first time the UAE has taken part in any Winter Olympics, thanks to Al Muhairi, who will contest the snowboard slopestyle event, and Alex Striedger, who will compete in alpine skiing.

Speaking to The National just a few hours before Friday’s opening ceremony, Al Muhairi said it felt “surreal” being at the Winter Youth Olympics.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s happening,” she said with a grin. “I think it will fully click once I do the opening ceremony and I notice how big this is, that I’ll actually feel excited."

Born to an Emirati father and Australian mother, Al Muhairi grew up in Dubai and was first introduced to snowboarding on a family trip to Bosnia when she was seven.

“We gave it a go and I loved it. I didn’t go back to skiing and it just slowly turned into this freestyling,” she said. “I started taking freestyling more seriously about two years ago and it’s been a rollercoaster of fun. Obviously, rollercoasters are good and bad but it’s been an amazing experience and I wouldn’t change it.”

At home, Al Muhairi trains at Ski Dubai, but she travels almost every month to train or compete on real snow.

“I do freestyle snowboarding and that comes in two parts. It’s Big Air, which are jumps, and Slopestyle, which are rails, and mixed in with jumps,” she said. “It does look very daunting and don’t get it wrong, it is very hard to do and it’s very hard to look down and pump yourself up and be like, ‘yes, I’m jumping now, let’s go’.

"But it’s such an adrenaline rush and that’s probably why I keep doing it. The adrenaline that I get from it is an all-time amazing feeling and I don’t want to give that up.”

Big Air is the event where snowboarders launch themselves skyward from a steeply banked ramp to complete a series of tricks and twists to impress the judges before they land. Al Muhairi’s heart lies in Big Air.

“I like jumps more and that would shock a ton of people because normally they like rails, which tend to be on the quote-unquote safer side," she said. "But I love the adrenaline of the jumps, going high, and the added risk to it."

“Once you’re confident in yourself and your abilities then you become more secure and you just go for it.”

The adrenaline that I get from [snowboarding] is an all-time amazing feeling and I don’t want to give that up
Amenah Al Muhairi

Accumulating the necessary points, and improving her standing with a decent showing at the Junior World championships, has earned Al Muhairi a place at the Winter Youth Olympics as well as in the history books.

“I’m not really fazed by it. I don’t think it’s clicked that I’m the first [Emirati] female snowboarder to compete, especially in something this big, like the Youth Olympics,” she admitted. “When we’re talking to the people and they say, ‘You’re the first’, and I’m like, ‘Woah, they’re right’, but it doesn’t feel like it. And that’s also major because of my mom, she keeps it very humble.”

Al Muhairi’s face beams when talking about her sport and her passion for snowboarding and competing is evident. But she isn’t tying herself down by setting any huge targets, instead keeping an open mind about what’s next for her on the slopes.

“I get asked this question a lot and honestly, I don’t know. Wherever the tide takes me. If that ends up being Olympics, amazing. If that ends up being that I take snowboarding as something where I can ride on a daily basis and get sponsors out of it, that’s also amazing,” she said.

“There is no end goal or where I want to be in snowboarding because things change and I’m still a kid, so it just keeps changing. I guess we’ll see when it comes.”

Looking ahead to this week’s action in South Korea, Al Muhairi said she has set some technical targets with her coach but isn’t putting too much pressure on herself.

“Coming into the Youth Olympics, I made six goals, ranging from the highest that I can get, I’ll be so stoked, and the lowest I can get, I’ll still be super stoked,” she said. “If I can reach any of those levels, whether it be one, three, four, six, I’d be the happiest girl.

“I just want to go to the Village, make friends, see the friends I already have, just enjoy, don’t make it a trip that when I come back home, I regret something or I wish I did something more. I want to take it as the day comes and try my absolute hardest.”

Updated: January 22, 2024, 12:17 PM