Saudi women have gradually been making their way into the global sports world, and they are proving they have plenty to offer. 

This month, Saudi women did not only participate in the Special Olympics World Summer Games for the first time, but also won gold in basketball.

Saudi Arabia's female basketball team scored the gold medal in the championship final, beating Ivory Coast.

The international sporting event for athletes with intellectual disabilities was held in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, from March 14-21.

In the women's basketball tournament, the Saudi Arabian team won 16-11 versus its Ivorian counterpart in the final, finishing on top of the unified female PLYRD02 standingsIvory Coast took home the silver medal, while Kuwait settled for bronze.

Meanwhile, the Saudi men's basketball team won silver in the unified male/mixed PLYRD02 standings.

Speaking to Humans of New York, a member of the Saudi women's basketball team described her experience at the Special Olympics, saying: 

"We are the first female athletes from Saudi Arabia. It makes us feel wow. It's one of the nicest moments in our life. [...] Yesterday, we won. But it doesn’t matter if we lose because at the end, we always dance."

Saudi athletes took home a national record-breaking total of 40 medals from the sporting event - 18 gold, nine silver, and 13 bronze medals. The kingdom was represented by 50 athletes, including 21 women.

"The team have done simply amazing, they have all done incredible. Of course, they are excited about the medals, but what is even more beautiful is the camaraderie, the friendships, and the support," Dr. Heidi Alaudeen Alaskary, director of diversity and inclusion and partnerships at Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority, told Arab News.

The 2019 Special Olympics notably marked the first time the sporting event takes place in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Saudi Arabia has seen significant progress when it comes to women in sports

Saudi women have long been restricted from practicing sports and competing at sporting events, but the kingdom has seen significant progress in recent years. 

The kingdom sent female athletes to compete for the first time at the 2012 Olympic Games. Saudi Arabia had succumbed to international pressure and agreed to send two female Olympians three weeks before the games, following threats of being banned from the event.

In October 2017, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan became the kingdom's first-ever female president of a sports federation that manages activities for both men and women.

Since then, the kingdom has held its first basketball tournament for women and its first women's run.

Additionally, earlier this week, Zahra Al-Qurashi, a Saudi Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, made history after winning the kingdom's first-ever gold medal in kickboxing at the Open International Tournament for Clubs in Amman, Jordan.