Split images of Kariman during her rowing world record attempt in Saudi Arabia

Meet Olympic athlete Kariman Abuljadayel (Saudi Arabia), who recently rowed 10 km in record-breaking time.

She achieved the fastest time to row 10 km (open water) at 57 min 24 sec in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

We had a chat with Kariman to learn more about her incredible life story.

Kariman’s love for sports started at a very young age, with her mother encouraging her to explore various sports.

“I want express my appreciation to my mother, Suraya Alshehry,” Kariman said. “Who nurtured this early passion and guided it before it faded. She is my role model and hero.

“Over time, I found my niche in running, particularly when I travelled abroad, allowing me to pursue sports seriously.”

What started out as a passion took a serious turn in 2012.

Read this article in Arabic and check out more content in Arabic here!

“In 2012, Saudi women had the opportunity to participate in the Olympics for the first time, coinciding with the start of my university studies in Boston. At the moment, I started taking sports seriously and committed to it.”

She joined her university’s track and field team and took her training to the next level!

“In 2016, I participated in the Rio Olympics as the first Saudi woman to compete in the 100 metres.”

Kariman rowing in the Red Sea at sunrise in Saudi Arabia

After the Rio 2016 Olympics, experts in the Saudi Olympic Committee suggested that the 100-m race was not an ideal fit for Kariman given her height at 180 cm (5 ft 11 in) and that’s when she transitioned to rowing.

Kariman kept working towards her passion and became a member of CRI (Community Rowing, Inc.), while completing her bachelor's degree and master's studies in architecture at Northeastern University.

“My athletic training went hand in hand with my academic routine. I tried to balance them so that my studies wouldn't be at the expense of sports, and sports wouldn't hinder my academic achievements.”

Kariman’s journey in the realm of sports included multiple physical and mental struggles.

Athletes must remain flexible and think in the moment, strategizing how to overcome their current obstacles or emotions.

“That's why you'll often find me determined not to settle for what's commonly referred to as the comfort zone during my training.”

She elaborated: “If I find that an exercise has become too easy, my mind compels me to push further and make it more challenging. It's my personal rule: push your limits every day and get comfortable being uncomfortable!”

Kariman on a chair in front of the sea talking about her record attempt

Kariman had to push through many obstacles in her professional career. But her perseverance, resilience and mindset is what makes her stand apart from others.

“Losing is the heaviest lesson for an athlete to bear. When you lose a race, it's premature to immediately see the positive side of that loss.

“While losing is tough, the consolation for an athlete is that the bitterness of defeat teaches them how to avoid it in future instances. Shortcomings make you physically and mentally stronger."

She added: “Sports start in the mind. It's simply a mental state that translates into the movement of the body.

This is the most important lesson one can learn in life – that everything begins with the controlling mind.

The gold medal is Kariman’s dream and driving force. She aims to reach the Olympics again and win an Olympic medal.

“The hope of improving and becoming better tomorrow is what motivates me to continue and push for my goals.”

Kariman while rowing in the red sea

We spoke to Kariman about her record attempt journey, and it was a battle for her!

“My record attempt took place in the Red Sea off the coast of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

"And it was on 15 August, you can surely imagine how hard the weather conditions were… extremely hot!

“The humidity and intense heat made a difficult attempt much harder. The heat elevated my heart rate to the point where I felt like I was about to faint.”

You would be wrong to think that the heat was the biggest obstacle to her record title.

She explained: “That day had a strong current that slowed the boat down. I was forced to put in more effort to just maintain the movement let alone move fast for the sake of breaking the record.

“I will be honest, I wanted to quit, it was too much, but a strong voice of determination within me that drove me to continue rowing and break through the imaginary barriers.”

Kariman receiving a GWR certificate from an official adjudicator

The story has a happy ending as Kariman found herself crowned with a world record!

“Attaining a Guinness World Records title in Saudi Arabia is a historic achievement that I will never forget.

Simply put, Guinness World Records validates that the word 'impossible' is merely a term found in the dictionary.

“This is precisely the essence of my experience, and I aim to redefine what appears difficult and impossible for all other women.”

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