Saudi Arabia’s First Female Olympic Athlete On Striving For Success | Bazaar Belief

BY Harper's BAZAAR Arabia / Jun 7 2020 / 10:30 AM

"Sometimes, taking a step backwards is the way to move forwards"

Saudi Arabia’s First Female Olympic Athlete On Striving For Success | Bazaar Belief

Olympic athlete Kariman made history as the first woman to represent Saudi Arabia in the 100m at the Rio 2016 Olympics. She also happens to be a trained architect (and the definition of an overachiever). Bazaar chats with her about everything from her proudest moment to the words she lives by.

Best piece of advice?

No matter what field you’re in, never cut corners thinking you’re getting ahead. You’re actually falling behind and eventually will have to face the consequences of your actions.

Describe yourself in three words…

Adventurous, determined and imaginative.

Biggest sense of achievement 

Becoming the first female sprinter from Saudi Arabia to ever compete in the Olympics when I ran the 100m at Rio in 2016. Becoming an Olympian is one thing, but to be the first, among millions of Saudi women, to ever do so in your sport is a feeling you can’t put into words.

Which experience in life taught you most about yourself and why?

Training for the Olympics while simultaneously pursuing my degree in architecture at Northeastern University in Boston. Managing them side-by-side was so challenging, but it taught me to work harder, manage my time better and be more disciplined. Thankfully I came out of the experience as both an architect and an Olympian.

Who or what feeds your soul?

Praying. It’s my compass in life.

Can we have it all (and what does that mean)?

Having it all is a quality of thought; a state of mind.

Motto you live your life by

"Inches Make Champions". It was written on a sign in my track team’s locker room at Northeastern. It simply means that success is the sum of small efforts.

Proudest moment?

Making the switch from a sprinter to a rower. I was advised to switch sports as rowing is more suitable to a person of my height (180cm) and physique. At first, I didn't want to start over, especially when I’d achieved so much as a sprinter. But sometimes, taking a step backwards is the way to move forwards. Indeed, in less than one year of being a rower, I got Saudi Arabia’s first women’s gold medal. Hopefully many more to come.

My greatest fear is…

Losing what I take for granted.

Luxury is…

The freedom of having a choice.

What book changed your life and why?

It’s not about what book you read, it’s about when you read it. I’ve read many books but the ones that resonated the most were the ones I read when I was a kid. I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho when I was 10 and I still remember how enthralled I was by the adventures of Santiago. It really stimulated not only my imagination, but my curiosity.

Follow Kariman Abuljadayel on Instagram @thekariman

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Lead image courtesy of Harper's Bazaar Arabia 2020 May issue