Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 March 2018

My UAE: We have lift off with the Olympics hopeful Amna Al Haddad

A profile of the Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Haddad, who is aiming to qualify for this summer's Olympics in Rio.

Amna Al Haddad, who is aiming to represent her country in this summer’s Olympics in Rio. Courtesy Nike
Amna Al Haddad, who is aiming to represent her country in this summer’s Olympics in Rio. Courtesy Nike

Amna Al Haddad has a lot “weighing” on her mind – chiefly, qualifying for this summer’s Olympics in Rio.

The 26-year-old professional weightlifter has worked hard to try to realise this dream.

“It takes training using a supervised and very scientific approach from day one for at least 10 to 20 years in the sport to achieve the top spot in the Olympic weightlifting. It is a very tough sport,” says Al Haddad, who is living and training in the United States.

She grew up in Dubai, and led a relatively unhealthy lifestyle until she was 19. “One day I woke up and realised that I couldn’t continue living like that, so I took it upon myself to take much-needed action and go for a run. That was where it all began.”

Al Haddad, who holds a degree in communications and previously worked as a journalist at The ­National, soon found CrossFit.

At CrossFit Asia in 2012, Al Haddad was the first Emirati, GCC national and Arab female to compete.

“Through CrossFit, I fell in love with weightlifting, and made the decision to focus on it. That is what I have been doing for the past four years.”

After Al Haddad gained the attention of Nike, she was featured in a series of short films, featuring inspirational stories of professional athletes from the ­Middle East.

“Support from global brands such as Nike matters so much,” she says. “Whether you are a fledgling athlete or a recognised sports star, its backing puts you in the spotlight, and helps you further your ambition.”

In the film, Al Haddad speaks about how she pushes every day to reach her goals. “I believe I have reached the milestones I have through pure hard work and dedication,” she says. “My greatest achievement has been in paving the way for women in the Arab world in strength sports.”

Her advice for those following in her footsteps? “Keep fighting for your goals, and know for a fact you will be a rejected a lot, but don’t let that stop you,” she says.

What’s your favourite book?

That’s a tough one, but I would pick the book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. It was such an eye-opening book, and had many great insights when it comes to fear and success.

What do you love doing in your spare time?

I reflect a lot. I think it is important to learn to review your actions and feelings on a daily basis to assess how you are doing and how you are making the world a better (or worse) place. I am not afraid of solitude.

If you could invite any three people in the world over to your house for dinner, who would they be?

I would say Sheikh Zayed, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali. I feel each one of them will have an amazing insight on life, people, sports and perseverance.

Who do you idolise in weightlifting?

The Pakistani-American weightlifter Kulsoom Abdullah, who defied the rules for covered women competing wearing the hijab.

Where’s your favourite place to travel?

Anywhere with a lot of natural beauty; somewhere distinctly different to the city. I do enjoy the city as well, so my ideal place would be a mix of both.

If there was a movie written about your life, who would play the leading role?

Probably myself. I don’t think anyone can take on my character as well as I can, and I am not a bad actress. I can keep the intensity “on”. It’s no different than lifting on stage in front of hundreds of people. That too is a performance, after all.

What five things do you never leave home without?

My phone, my fitness book, MP3 player, my faith and my confidence to take on anything the world throws at me.

What car do you drive, and what does it say about you?

I have a 2002 Honda in the United States, and a 2009 Mazda 3 in the UAE. They say I am simple, down to earth and don’t care for expensive things. But having said that, a Mustang GT is my dream car, or a Camaro.

What music do you currently have on repeat?

I listen to metal and rock music a lot. But I would say the song Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots has been this year’s favourite.


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