Stay focused and savor the beautiful moment—such was the advice of an Olympic silver medallist and a Paralympian to Safiya Al Sayegh, the Emirati cyclist who qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics last year. Al Sayegh, 22, made history as the first Emirati female cyclist to qualify for an Olympic Games. The rising star is leaving no stone unturned to deliver her best performance on the grand stage when the Games begin on July 26 in Paris.

The 158-km long women’s road race in France will test the skills and endurance of Al Sayegh, who has put in all the hard work to be among the world’s elite female cyclists. However, former Australian parathlete Jessica Smith and British rugby star Dan Norton emphasized that the Olympics is not merely about competing for medals.

Smith, who represented Australia at the 2004 Athens Olympics, shared how the Games create enduring memories for athletes. “It was a unique experience for me. I was able to meet so many incredible athletes. It felt like one big party at the Games Village. You have to try and stay focused in that moment because you have trained so hard for this one event. It’s amazing to compete at an Olympic Games and to do what you love in such a beautiful place like Paris. You have to take everything in,” said Smith at an event hosted by Nathalie Kennedy, General Consul of France in Dubai.

Norton, who excelled in the sevens format of rugby, reminisced about his first Olympics in Rio; he encountered icons like Usain Bolt, and the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus. “The Olympics is like a circus, with athletes of every shape and size,” said Norton, who also featured in the British team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and recalled winning the silver medal in Rio 2016 as the most incredible moment of his life.

Al Sayegh, who also became the first Emirati female cyclist to be selected by a professional team (UAE Team ADQ), expressed her immense pride in representing the UAE at the world’s greatest sporting spectacle. “I am looking forward to doing the longest race of my life in Paris. It’s an incredible honor to be at the Olympics, and I hope to give my best performance for my country,” the rising star said.