Zahra Lari: the UAE’s first athlete en route to the Winter Olympics

22-year-old Emirati figure skater, Zahra Lari, is vying for a UAE win in the Winter Olympics. Here's how she's breaking stereotypes and winning over the world.

Zahra Lari is the UAE’S first and only figure skating athlete. This year, she has made waves in the media as a strong female athlete putting the Middle East on the map for winter sports.

If Lari makes the cut for the Winter Olympic Qualifiers, she will be the first UAE athlete to compete at the global event; a lifelong dream for the talented young skater.

Representing the UAE on an unconventional stage

Lari’s ultimate goal is to compete on an international stage as the first to carry the UAE flag proudly.

“My ultimate goal has always been to compete in the Winter Olympics. When I look seven years back, I remember training pretty hard and lonely sometimes. It was all about my will and not giving up. Now people know me and know my story so I have their support.”

For the past seven years, Lari’s life has been driven by her Olympic dream. She has been training an average of four hours a day, seven days a week. The skater says her biggest motivation is the support of her family.

“I am so close now to my goal. And when it gets tough I think of the word Olympics and what that means for my family and nation and that clears my vision and helps me focus on the goal,” Lari adds.

A childhood dream come true

Achieving her dreams didn’t come easy for Lari. Born and raised in the UAE, she knew that being a professional ice skater would require intense training in an ice rink all year-round.

She first persuaded her parents to let her take ice skating lessons after watching a Disney movie on competitive figure skating, Ice Princess, at age 11.

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The first hijabi woman in figure skating

Continuing to break stereotypes, Lari became the first international skater to compete wearing a hijab.

“When I started skating I’d get deductions for being covered. They (the judges) had never seen covered skaters before, but after holding several meetings, I am now proud to say that hijabi women can skate free of fear,” she says.

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Lari wants the world to know that Emirati athletes are strong. “We’re confident women who know what we want and we work very hard to accomplish our goals.”

The world can watch Lari compete for the qualifiers from September 26th to October 1st 2017.

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