Amna Al Haddad
Sports Pioneer from the Middle East

Blog Nike_IS_Amna_Stills10_V1_native_1600 - Copy

Published on May 6th, 2016 | by Amna Al Haddad


How Much I lift? My Answer Is…

When I first “came out” about my passion for strength sports in my blog dated back in 2009, to speaking at TedxAjman in 2011, to competing and making history for Arab women at the Crossfit Asia Regionals in 2012, and then fully committing to the sport of Olympic Weightlifting end of 2012 – during that period, the words female and weightlifting were scarce, not common, and by any means, far from popular.

In between, also quitting my job as a full-time Journalist from The National June of 2012.

Fast forward to 2016, there has been a surge of Emirati, GCC and Arab women who are competitive crossfitters, who compete locally and regionally. The number of athlete role models – especially female – in the GCC region are now increasing.

I remember when athletes from Kuwait visited Dubai during a throw-down to compete at a local crossfit event and talking to them about their ambitions and seeing how well they’re now doing in sport, makes me absolutely optimistic about the future and path we are on. (Example: Haya AlSharhan and her husband.)

There is also a large group of Emirati women whom names are popular among the UAE community for their achievements in sport and commitment in Crossfit. They serve as role models to the younger generation and are creating an impact in the society and showing the way.

As a voice for female empowerment and a sport advocate in the Arab world, this level of interest in fitness, health and sports is exactly what I call success. Being the first in many of those fields does not necessarily equate to the “best.”

It’s easy for people to sit and focus on every move, every success, and failure under a microscope and try to judge and make sense out of it.

But, what you see is a fraction of reality.

Not the full story.

In terms of sports success, despite many achievements locally and internationally, 9 IWF-event based medals, I do not necessarily consider myself the “top” in the game by any means – being in the top is a lot more than a number on the scale, on a bar, rank or on a leaderboard.

Character has far more worth and weight, than any result that someone may have. If someone has both, then kudos! They have reached a high level of being in this world, self-actualization perhaps.

My goal is to make sure no young athlete make the same mistakes I have;  I want them to start on the right path and direction in their athletic careers to become champions, and to do 10x better than I have in my career as an athlete.

“Don’t let your success determine your self-worth” – Amna Al Haddad

As I grew with time, I realized that I am part of a bigger picture – I am walking a very different path than most – a lone path that is – in which as a result have changed the mindset and misconceptions people have worldwide about Arab Muslim women. It changed how the western culture perceives Arabs.

I was told by someone I met at the Arnold’s Sport Festival (and is now a close friend):

“This year (2016) there are two covered girls who competed. The world is better because of you.”

Another friend said:

“You prove your great strength in so many ways that doesn’t involve the bar. Lifting life is way harder.”

I met an online friend during a trip in Portland who is an American-Muslim convert who said:

“Two years ago I almost quit going to the gym because of the stares, your story is the reason I did not quit.”

I wear those comments around my neck with gratitude– like a gold medal.

People often ask me about my numbers as it is the most vital thing of my existence. Here’s some reality check:

I, Amna Al Haddad, is a lot more than a Snatch, a Clean and Jerk, and a total in training or competition.

In the recent Asian Championships – Rio 2016 Olympic Qualifier – I have snatched 43kgs and 55kgs, while missing 45, and a slightly pressing out 60kgs. It’s not my best training and competition numbers.

You see one thing, numbers.

You do not know the story behind those numbers.

You do not know that five months ago I could barely bend to pick a bar, let alone do the dishes because I was and still am in pain. In 30 days, I had to get back close to my old numbers, I back squatted 100kgs and front squatted 80kgs, trying to shut off the fact I have a herniated disc (L5), and was told by the doctor:

 “You need to stop training, or you will have problems for the rest of your life.”

You do not know the battles that I fought in silence.

Many are anticipating what happened at the qualifiers. The best answer I can give, is, WE – as the UAE Women’s National Team – came close to earning a spot at Rio. Although the results are final, they are not conclusive until all anti-doping tests come back. Then we will really know.

We ranked 7th, and the top 6 countries qualified 1 quota place for Rio (not including those already qualified.)

We came close.

There is still a slim chance, and anything could happen.

I did not fail my goal, if anything, I have learned that I am someone who’s persistent. Who never gave up when faced with adversity over and over and over again; that I kept pushing to the last minute to my best ability, with what I can do, and what God has given me the ability to do.

I am far from sad or upset; I am happy, thrilled and proud of every step I took. Never took a short cut.

To have stuck through all those years on a goal I set out publicly, and actually coming really close to earning a spot in Rio, is truthfully an achievement all on its own.

When I first set out on this goal and path, I had no idea about the ABC of weightlifting, I learned along the journey. I learned that I am, maybe, slightly nuts to think I can compete at the Olympics with 4 years training, only when I could barely squat when I first started – only to actually come close to the goal, by a couple of points, between Rio or not.

It has been a journey of self-discovery, and it is the start for me. Start of something bigger.

Not the finish.

So next time you ask, how much I lift? My answer is, I have lifted a nation.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Back to Top ↑