Amna Al Haddad
Sports Pioneer from the Middle East

Blog 223 (3)

Published on February 12th, 2013 | by Amna Al Haddad


My First Int’l Weightlifting Competition Prep

The past few months have been nothing but grueling. Tears were shed. Blood was spilled. Breakthroughs took place. PR’s followed. All for training to get ready for my first weightlifting competition where I will be representing the UAE abroad in just two weeks – at the Arnold Weightlifting Championships (AWC) in Columbus, Ohio, March 1 – 3.

Before I go on to write about my preparation – there has been key individuals, companies, and support groups that have made it possible for me to reach to this level (and without them I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today), and I would like to thank them individually…

First, I’d like to thank Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki, who is my first sponsor to support me as I move towards my goal of participating in the 2016 Olympics, who believed in me and wanted to empower an Emirati woman to reach her serious sporting goals.

Second, I cannot thank FAST athletic training, my coach Olivier Lamoureux and the whole FAST team for having me as their supported athlete and providing me with full athletic service since I stepped through their doors. They are a big part of developing me as an athlete toward my 2016 Olympics journey and I consider them family <3.

Third, I would like to thank Dr Tamara at California Chiropractic Center who has been taking care of my overall physical well-being as a result of my long training hours in preparation for my competition.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the UAE weightlifting Federation for their continuous efforts to improve the sport of weightlifting in the UAE.

…& back to the post.

The sport of weightlifting is often confused in this region – confused with bodybuilding, with powerlifting, or other forms of weight training. The sport of weightlifting I am referring to and competing at is an Olympic sport. It includes only two lifts – the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. Two lifts that takes many years to master.

The AWC  is going to be held as part of the Arnold Sport Festival – the largest multisport event in the world. During the four-day event, 18,000 athletes will compete in 46 sporting events, more than the 2012 London Olympics have seen!

I am excited. Nervous. Hungry. I have butterflies in my stomach everytime I think of the competition. Unlike other sports, weightlifting is not about the “go go go”, it’s not about “push till you drop”, it’s not about “fight to the finish”. It’s about learning how to relax before you approach the bar, but still hold tension in your whole body to perform a quick movement by raising a loaded barbell from ground to overhead. It’s about not letting a thought, a sound, a cheer distract you. And it is very physical, very technique and strength-based, but it’s all about the right mental attitude before lifting the bar.


I am quite honored to be able to participate in the AWC where a lot of high level, elite, and even Olympians have competed before! Given my little experience in the sport of weightlifting – and I mean learning the actual proper mechanics of  the lifts, rather than just moving the weight in anyway possible as I have done in crossfit – I have learned to respect the sport at a much deeper level, respect the level of efficiency required to execute the lifts properly, respect the time and effort weightlifters have taken to reach the level they have – which truly does take up to 10 years of 10,000 hours of work to become an expert in (and anything else!) Not a day, or a month or 2 years even. In fact, the first 3-4 years of the sport of weightlifting is considered the “learning phase.”

I have spent most of the past 3 months – and really that’s all the time I spent purely “weightlifting,” training up to 15hrs/week, give or take a few hours. The goal of the past few months was to get me to:

  • Drop under the bar in the Snatch in a quick movement
  • Work on my speed in my hip extension/flexion
  • Pulling with my legs (not arms – rookie mistake)
  • Keeping the weight on my heels

…and all of my hard work is paying off – even if it’s minor changes, minor PR’s, minor progress, because in the end, they will all stack up and allow me to become a better weightlifter, day by day. I have truly progressed, from fearing to drop under the bar, to actually doing it rather damn well. From not having a strong overhead position (a year ago), to having a freakin’ solid jerk, just to name a few.

The goal of taking part of this competition and stage of my training  is not even close to winning any medals (as many would like to see, although it doesn’t work that simply in the sport of weightlifting). Other than being the only Emirati, GCC and Arab currently registered to compete, taking part of this big competition is about; 1) Getting my first experience in a weightlifting competition (international, mind you); 2) Getting my first official total (Snatch+C&J); 3) It’s only my first step toward my ultimate goal which is competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The only war that I have to win at this competition, is the one between me vs barbell.


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About the Author

Amna Al Haddad , born in 21 Oct 1989, is an Emirati who always had a passion for health and fitness. She made history by being the first Emirati and GCC national to ever to participate in the Reebok Crossfit Games Asia Regionals. Since then she embarked on Olympic Weightlifting with being an IWF Arab and West-Asian Champ -63. A NIKE sponsored athlete, a motivational speaker and published author.

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