Amna Al Haddad
Sports Pioneer from the Middle East

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Published on July 4th, 2016 | by Amna Al Haddad

Reflection: My 4 Year Journey to the Olympics

I am a project-based person, everything I do, I treat it as a project that has a beginning, a middle and an end. And it was no different for me to train for the Olympics.

The reason I perceive things as projects, is because I like to come up with an idea, act toward it, assess the situation, re-asses, fix, achieve, implement and finally get an end-result. I never do anything for just doing it.

I do things with an intention, a goal into action, and finally reach the best possible outcome within a certain period of time. And as such, in regards to training for the Olympics in the last 4 years, my goal was to qualify.

And qualify we did as a team.

When I started my journey for the Olympics, not only I wasn’t ready, I had no idea what I was doing – it seemed an activity that I could do and aim for; knowing my personality, mentality and approach in life. In 2012, I didn’t truly understand Snatch, Clean and Jerk, technique, recovery, competing in weightlifting, let alone the process of qualifying and point collection and what any of it means.

But along the way and the road I have chosen to take, I had learned the lessons that made me who I am today, and that factored me being 1 of the 7 female athletes in the UAE Weightlifting National Team who competed, earned enough points as a team, to earn one spot for an athlete to represent the UAE at Rio De Janeiro Olympics.

Some may think that I am extremely disappointed that I wasn’t picked. Some are extremely disappointed for me. Disappointed, I am not! The athlete, Ayesha Al Balooshi, from the team who was chosen to fill the spot earned the it due to her 8+ years’ experience in the sport, plus her highest point collection in the team at the Asian Championships – Olympic Qualifier, finishing with 22 points, while I earned 16 points.

To really to think of it – I changed my life from an unhealthy depressed person to competing at an Olympic qualifier and helping my country reach the Olympics – is on its own a big achievement to realize within 4 years only.

During those four years, many interesting challenges made me re-think and re-assess my goals in this sport, and what is it that I want to achieve; personally, for my country and for women empowerment on a global scale.

Achieving many feats was not an easy process, especially with negative individuals, which is expected when you reach heights in any field that you partake. Because how they ask? The how was simple. Never quitting when adversity came crashing my whole world and turning it upside down. I kept going, crawling and dragging my leg when I had to. Did it when I hated training, hated the bar and hated the weights. Continued when every fiber in my soul said to quit.

I did not.

(More below pictures)



MG_3671-Copy-620x350 11205510_876917762396370_3458776834442123670_n Group pic to Asian Champs Nike_IS_Amna_Stills10_V1_native_1600 - Copy amna_haddad_2016 82020b4681836c28c5578f454e1591fa8199c33d IMG_4630 bddffd95bd48aa0ecf20500a08fda302b8ddb693 27bd95b0dd0805000acde6801ee7d87345dcbb2f 11868704_10156075985930438_350780403_n 11880474_10156075986045438_2012332117_n 11846040_10156075986055438_1698931454_n 15862533241_63b2334243_o With my strong teammate during my last day, Jill! Catalyst Athletics! C&J Nation presentation DSC_0041 DSC_0081 Photo Credit: Nordine Hadi DSC_0139 IMG_20140130_160327 037 038 Myself & Dimas 2nd place noe24_WomensWeightlifting_GrandPrix_2013_BrunnAustria_17w Caught the 45kgs on a deep squat position. IMG_8026 Got my athlete badge! IMG_8039 Countdown from the men's session to the women's... Amna at SHP (77 of 81) Amna at SHP (61 of 81)Believe me amna-tashkent22you, I had questioned myself many times – wait a minute? Why am I pursuing this goal? Why am I lifting weights beyond what my body can handle and causing me injuries? Why am I even talking about my journey to the media? I wanted to shut off. Let it all go.

But then I knew what the answer was.

I was truly passionate about the statement I was making, more so than the weights I was lifting. Anyone can be physically strong; physical strength comes and goes, but your character, values and ethics remain with you.

I had become a role model to many and it was a role I took seriously. It was a role I developed into, because I haven’t really had known anyone who walked this path before in this part of the world. I had become the person I always wished existed before me to guide me. I haven’t had anyone educate me on what it means to be an athlete, it was a series of lessons I learned along the way,through seeking education and educating myself. But there are key points to success in anything you do, and the most important thing is being honest with yourself.

I was 100% honest with myself during this journey – on my ability, on my capability and what I wanted to achieve and why, especially in the last 2 years. There was a point where I knew I have hit a road-block with my physical strength, with health underlying issues, and other factors that affected my training and approach to weights. In those times focusing on technique was more important and being safe, than lifting weights in any way possible just to say “I just PR’d my….”

That’s not sportsmanship. That’s ego.

My advice. Do not be that person. Do not become that person that is only focused on the result. Do not be shallow and superficial in your views. Never forget that people on the online world and social media only show their best side, best angle, best lift, best everything

It not only causes unrealistic expectation, but it also makes you feel less about yourself, ability, and who you are as an individual. Do not buy into the fads – observe, question, stay quiet. If you have nothing positive to say, say nothing. And know that if you only focus on results, you’re setting yourself up for “punishment” mindset.

Why do that to yourself? Love yourself as you are. At any stage you are in your life. At any goal you have achieved or a goal that you haven’t, you tried.

Remember, the day you meet God (if you are a believer), is not going to be about your “achievements,” but whether you were a good person or not, whether you had a positive influence around you, helped those around you, your deeds will matter more.

Be real. Be human. Be vulnerable.

I have become kind to myself where I stopped beating myself up whenever I didn’t achieve or do something spectacular compared to what others think is. I only care about what Amna thinks, in fact I decide what I think and I do what makes me happy, so should you.

With that, I conclude my Olympic journey at this station. And with that, I pledge that I will always be the driver and the CEO of my awesome journey in life.

Old chapter ends.

Next chapter begins.

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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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