Are Saudi’s Princesses Training for the Olympics, or for the Hunger Games?

Seems like just yesterday that Saudi women were banned from competing in the Olympics. But now that they’ve proven their mettle (in track and judo, at least), Saudi Arabia’s king has high hopes for the women in his own family. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has hired four-time Olympic gold medalist Kim Soo-nyung to ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Seems like just yesterday that Saudi women were banned from competing in the Olympics. But now that they've proven their mettle (in track and judo, at least), Saudi Arabia's king has high hopes for the women in his own family.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has hired four-time Olympic gold medalist Kim Soo-nyung to train his granddaughters for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The sport? Archery. Which is kind of interesting, because Saudi Arabia doesn't even have a women's national archery team. Despite that minor detail, Kim says the royal family is paying her $200,000 a year plus living expenses to send the unnamed princesses to the Olympics.

But why archery? Maybe the princesses are "Hunger Games" fans. In the U.S., at least, the sport's popularity has soared since "Hunger Games" star Jennifer Lawrence took up a bow in 2011. Five time Olympian Khatuna Lorig coached the actress for her role as teenage archer Katniss Everdeen. USA Archery, the governing body for the Olympic sport, says their membership has increased 105 percent in two years -- largely tied to the popularity of the film. Young girls, in particular, seem to have taken a shine to the sport.

Seems like just yesterday that Saudi women were banned from competing in the Olympics. But now that they’ve proven their mettle (in track and judo, at least), Saudi Arabia’s king has high hopes for the women in his own family.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has hired four-time Olympic gold medalist Kim Soo-nyung to train his granddaughters for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The sport? Archery. Which is kind of interesting, because Saudi Arabia doesn’t even have a women’s national archery team. Despite that minor detail, Kim says the royal family is paying her $200,000 a year plus living expenses to send the unnamed princesses to the Olympics.

But why archery? Maybe the princesses are "Hunger Games" fans. In the U.S., at least, the sport’s popularity has soared since "Hunger Games" star Jennifer Lawrence took up a bow in 2011. Five time Olympian Khatuna Lorig coached the actress for her role as teenage archer Katniss Everdeen. USA Archery, the governing body for the Olympic sport, says their membership has increased 105 percent in two years — largely tied to the popularity of the film. Young girls, in particular, seem to have taken a shine to the sport.

Whatever the reason for the princesses’ interest, they will have the advantage of being trained by one of the most successful archers in the world. In 2011, the International Archery Federation named Kim the best female archer of the 20th century, and she’s claimed four gold, one silver, and one bronze medal in three Olympic Games.

The princesses, whoever they are, are in good hands. May the odds be ever in their favor!

Catherine A. Traywick is a fellow at Foreign Policy.

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