Who Are the Middle Eastern Athletes Competing in Beijing?

With the Beijing Winter Olympics starting under the shadow of Covid, the Arab world has their eyes on the three Middle Eastern teams that are competing this year. Six athletes are coming out of Iran (2), Lebanon (3), and Saudi Arabia (1) to carry their nations’ pride at an international level, according to the official Beijing Olympics website.

Atefeh Ahmadi, a 21-year-old female athlete, will be accompanied by her teammate, 36-year-old male athlete Hossein Saveh Shemshaki, both to compete in the alpine skiing challenge. Ahmadi, who’s debut was in 2017, is only the third Iranian woman to ever qualify for the Winter Olympics. Shemshaki, who’s debut was in 2001, entered the sport after his family introduced him to it, hoping to follow his hero, American six-time Olympic and five-time World Championship medalist in alpine skiing, in his footsteps. This will be the only challenge that the Islamic Republic of Iran takes a part of in this year’s Winter Olympics.

Competing against Shemshaki in the male alpine skiing challenge is Fayik Abdi, an American born 24-year-old Saudi Arabian athlete. Abdi was taught to ski by his mother in Lebanon when he was a child, and only had his professional debut in 2021, hoping to prove himself after a serious injury in 2015. Abdi is the only athlete competing on behalf of Saudi Arabia in the Beijing Olympics this year.

Competing for Lebanon are three athletes. The first is Cesar Arnouk, a 21-year-old male Lebanese athlete born in Libya but currently residing in Canada. Arnouk had his debut was in 2017 and has been in the Lebanese national team ever since. The second athlete is Manon Ouaiss, a 21-year-old female Lebanese athlete currently residing in France. Ouaiss had her Olympics debut in 2017 but has been part of the Lebanese national team since 2011. She plans to make a comeback to the sport after breaking both her collarbones and having a knee reconstruction in 2021. The third athlete is 19-year-old male Lebanese athlete Elie Tawk who’s debut was only in 2021 and has only been part of the Lebanese national team since 2020. Arnouk and Ouaiss will be competing in the alpine skiing challenge, while Tawk will take on the cross-country skiing challenge.

The Olympic Games of Beijing officially opened on February 4 and will last until February 20. No Middle Eastern athlete ever won a medal at the Winter Olympic Games.

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Anthony Harb

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