For the first time, a Saudi team will compete at the World Women’s Bowling Championships in Las Vegas next month.
The team of six have been bowling together since last year and will compete in the August 22 to 30 completion’s individual, doubles, triples and five-person heats.
Initially, a group of 12 women came together to bowl for fun and were spotted by the national men’s team coach who encouraged them to speak to the kingdom’s federation for backing – a move that reportedly received an overwhelmingly positive response, the Saudi Gazette newspaper reported.
Amani Al Ghamdi, Nahla Adas, Mariam Al Dosari, Ghada Nimir, Mashael Al Abdulwahid and Hadeel Termein and their Egyptian coach Sarah Jamal will all travel to the states to take part when their Riyadh training camp finishes.
President of World Bowling, Kuwait’s Sheikh Talal Mohammed Al Sabah, praised the arrival of the first women’s team from Saudi Arabia at the international games.
However, it is not the first all-women’s bowling team to compete internationally – in February a female team competed in Cairo.
Saudi Arabia now has three women’s bowling teams, based in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar.
The push to get more women into bowling, and sport more generally, comes as part of the Kingdom’s ambitious 2030 vision initiative that will see a complete reform across almost all areas of Saudi Arabia from public sector management to quality of life.
"We're glad Saudi sportswomen are being empowered and that opportunities are opening up for them to represent the kingdom at international championships. This will have a positive effect on the advancement of female sports in the kingdom," Badr Al Sheikh, head of the Saudi National Bowling Federation told local news.
Saudi women have been increasingly taking part in international competitive events from fighting – where Zahra Al Qurashi claimed the gold at the women's 70 kg kickboxing event in Amman – to racing – with Aseel Al Hamad the first Saudi women to drive an F1 car.
The first women’s Olympic team of two athletes took part in the 2012 London games and four travelled to Rio De Janeiro in 2016.
But away from the top flight international competitions, women have also been getting more access to sports since female-only gyms started getting licenses to operate in February 2017. Teams have also started to form, including running clubs like the Jeddah Running Collective that started a couch-to-5km programme.