Two Saudi skiers make history by qualifying for Winter Olympics

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Jan 17 (Reuters) - You might be forgiven for thinking the Beijing Winter Olympics next month might not be the kind of event at which to expect athletes from Saudi Arabia. But think again.

Saudi skiers Salman Al-Howaish and Fayik Abdi have qualified to compete in Alpine skiing races at the Beijing Games, according to the Saudi state news agency SPA.

The giant slalom has attracted competitors from countries with no medal winning record in the sport, such as violinist Vanessa Mae who competed for Thailand at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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Al-Howaish qualified for the slalom and Abdi for the giant slalom, according to the international skiing federation (FIS) website.

Final places are yet to be assigned by the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, but Saudi Arabia, where temperatures can hit 52 degrees Celsius, has overcome the first hurdle in its quest to participate in its first Winter Olympics.

The Games run from Feb. 4-20.

Other nations currently on the list to compete against Alpine skiers from countries such as Austria and Norway in Beijing include India, Brazil, Ghana, Haiti and the Philippines.

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Reporting by Shadia Nasralla Editing by Christian Radnedge

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