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Thursday, January 27, 2022

No bounds: Qatari women soar into extreme air sports


WATCH: In Qatar’s world of extreme sports, few women are defying stereotypes. Doha News met up with the daring athletes to learn more about their passions.

Putting the word “extreme” before sports often evokes images of daredevil men skiing through an avalanche, or male athletes gliding through tight gaps in a canyon. In Qatar, a small handful of women are daring to paint a newer, more inclusive image of extreme sports.

Hessa Albinali

From paragliding, to microlight flying and skydiving, these women know no bounds – literally. Doha News spoke to some of the biggest names in women’s extreme air sports right here in Qatar, for an exclusive look into their lives and journeys.

Que Reem Alkuthairi, one of the first to receive a microlight license in Doha and the first to be registered in the United Kingdom as a Qatari microlight pilot where she received her permit. 

Graduating from Qatar University in Sport Science and Physical Education, it’s clear that her love of sports even seeped into her education. For her, the excitement of paragliding for the first time in France ignited something deep inside that left her thirsty for more.

“I love adventures and I became attached to flying and the feeling that comes with it, so I wanted to go deeper into air sports,” she said, noting that her first-time experience inspired her to try other air activities. Soon enough, she was introduced to microlight flying and eventually received her license.

Supported by her father from an early age, Alkuthairi grew up fearless, always wanting to try different things and striving to be as adventurous as physically possible.

“My dad didn’t want us to be scared. Whenever we were scared of something, he would always encourage us to do it.” 

The young athlete, who expected to face societal backlash for going into the extreme sport, was pleasantly surprised to find she was instead showered with support by her family and friends. 

For Alkuthairi, the hope is to inspire young girls to follow in her footsteps void of fear, both from people on the ground or from taking the literal of faith from the skies above. In fact, she encourages both genders to try everything to allow space to discover their passions in life.

Aljawhara Alhitmi

However, “every sport comes with its risks,” the microlight pilot warns.

But like every sports enthusiast, Alkuthairi knows how to keep herself safe and is well acquainted with the risks of microlight piloting.

“I know my airplane and its limits, so I won’t go over that and enter any danger zone,” she assured.

Like Alkuthairi, an experience in paragliding through the air also opened doors for another extreme sports athlete.

Hessa Albinali is a paramotor pilot and a Qatar University graduate with a degree far from sports – Business and Marketing.

Albinali was ready to give up on her dreams to ensue extreme sports until finally, a club she felt was made to quench her thirst for sports opened right here in Qatar. In a heartbeat, she registered and soon found herself training in the skies.

“On my first trip alone, the trainer was speaking to me through wireless communication, telling me ‘congratulations Hessa, you’re the first Qatari woman to be a paramotor pilot,” the ambitious pilot said.

Those few words, coupled with the exciting adrenaline from flying, inspired the young Qatari to shift into full gear. Soon she found herself engaging in multiple training sessions and in July 2020, she too officially received her license.

For Aljawhara Alhitmi, being a business and marketing major was not enough. Throughout her time in school, she excelled as a gymnast – winning awards and medals at various competitions over the years.

On her 25th birthday, her sisters surprised her with a trip to Skydive Qatar and a chance to jump with an instructor. 

“It was a childhood dream of mine to become a skydiver, but I never thought this dream would come true.” 

The birthday experience changed everything. 

Full of hope and excitement, Alhitmi finally realised her dream was attainable and signed up at the skydiving centre. “When you free fall, it’s a feeling that cannot be described,” she said.

In 2019, she became fully licensed to skydive with full support from her sisters who gave her her first shot at the sport. However, some of her family members were hesitant. 

Reem Alkuthairi

“My mum was a bit against it at first, but then when I showed her my videos, pictures, and shared my everyday adventures, she became very supportive, which is the most important thing to me.” 

Now seasoned in Qatar’s skies, the skydiver has her eyes set on different scenes. Alhitmi has drawn up a bucket list of 10 countries where she’s keen on experiencing from the air. 

When asked what advice she would give to other young women, Alhitmi aptly cited renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh: “I always tell them ‘I would die of passion than boredom.’”

For the full interviews and to see the air sports athletes in action, check out our video.

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