Extraordinary Emirati making a difference in Siberia

04/04/2019

Zahra Lari taking on the figure skating world

Almost a year ago, we signed a talent representation agreement with the local UAE figure skater Zahra Lari. In the country where there is no ice and temperatures never drop below zero Celsius, figure skating is a sport that is hardly heard of. Despite that, at the age of 12 after watching a Disney movie “Ice Princess”, Zahra Lari went to the only ice rink in Abu Dhabi and found her passion in figure skating. Needless to say, Zahra had many obstacles to overcome, from the lack of ice and coaching talent in the UAE to cultural stereotypes.

Thanks to her strong character, passion and dedication, Zahra soon became a pioneer of the sport in the UAE. Today, she is the UAE’s five-time national champion, the first athlete to represent her country internationally in figure skating, and the first figure skater ever to skate with the hijab. Zahra made a true difference in figure skating by forcing the International Skating Union to change the rules and not deduct points for wearing headscarf during competition. Because of Zahra’s efforts, UAE became a full member of the ISU, which opened doors to international competitions for her and other skaters from the country.

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After first meeting Zahra and listening to her extraordinary story, we decided to help this young athlete to reach her full potential and achieve her dream of qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympics. As part of Zahra’s journey, we helped her secure a spot at the Winter Universiade 2019, which took place in the beginning of March in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. It was the first time ever in the history of Winter Universiade that an athlete from the UAE competed, and it was the first time Zahra got to compete in Russia. Competing at prestigious global events such as the Winter Universiade is another step towards fulfilling her dream of becoming an Olympian.

For Zahra, figure skating is more than just a sport. It is a platform that she uses to spread the message of female empowerment and to shatter stereotypes. During Zahra’s visit to Russia, we were able to secure interviews with key local media channels and help Zahra spread her message. One day before the competition, we organised a press conference for Zahra and her coach, which was attended by both Russian and international media. Zahra became a true sports ambassador of the UAE and Arab culture.

Zahra’s participation in the Winter Universiade also resulted in an increase of interest from UAE media. Upon her return to Abu Dhabi Zahra was featured in a live show on Abu Dhabi Sports TV and Sky News Arabia and was featured on the cover of the Middle East edition of Vogue Magazine.