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Nada Arakji

Doha Stadium Plus/Flickr

Nada Arakji

Two-time Olympic swimmer Nada Arakji has spent little time resting since returning to Doha from Brazil recently.

In less than a week, the FINA Swimming World Cup kicks off in Doha, and she’s already back in training as one of 16 young athletes representing Qatar at the tournament.

Though Arakji is only 21, she has many years of experience compared to most of her teammates, as the average age for the Qatari swim team is just 15 years old.

FINA

Aric DiLalla

FINA

This will be the athlete’s third FINA world cup, after swimming the 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly in 2014 and 2015.

It comes on the heels of her second Olympic appearance, after she competed in the Women’s 100m butterfly event in Rio de Janeiro.

As she gets ready for the latest competition at the Hamad Aquatic Center, which runs Oct. 8 and 9, Arakji spoke to Doha News about competing in the Olympics.

She also shared what it feels like to be one of the people smashing stereotypes for young women in the country.

Empowering

This year, Arakji was one of only two female athlete to qualify for Qatar’s national Olympic team.

She said this alone made her proud of her participation in the summer Olympics.

“Being (one of the) only women on the Qatari team is an honor. It felt very empowering that I am breaking stereotypes and can be an example to many young females out there.”

However, the athlete did attract some criticism locally for donning a bathing suit in front of the world. Arakji declined to comment on this.

Separately, she did tell Doha News:

 

“That moment when I held my country Qatar’s flag up high and walked in the parade with so much pride was something I will never forget.”

Nada Arakji at Rio Olympics

Supplied

Nada Arakji at Rio Olympics

Arakji made her Olympic debut in London in 2012 and made headlines in the process.

She joined field sprinter Noor Al Malki, shooter Bahiya Al Hamad and table tennis player Aya Majdi as the first Qatari women to have competed in the games since the country began participating in 1984.

“Thinking back on both my experiences, it’s crazy to see how much I developed as a person. In London, I was a beginner – I was in high school and it was my first experience,” she told Doha News.

“In Rio, I felt more confident, having gained experience and knowing what to expect,” she added.

Recently graduated with a business degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Arakji has started working with the Qatar Olympic Committee. But she already has an eye on the future, with plans to start her own business eventually.

Aside from getting prepared for the upcoming FINA cup, the athlete is also doing more land-based training and wants to compete in 5k and 10k running races, “just to get my stamina going.”

Compromises

But her future plans are all derived from her role as an Olympian.

“It’s one of those experiences in your life that are so unbelievable that it’s hard to grasp,” she said, referring to competing in the games.

She continued:

“My journey to the Olympics wasn’t the easiest – I did have to make sacrifices, but it was worth it because this allows me to make a difference, to inspire changes to empower more women and to be a sports ambassador for all the women out there to follow their dreams despite the obstacles.”

Nada Arajki at Rio Olympics

Supplied

Nada Arajki at Rio Olympics

While her training schedule has been rigorous throughout her swimming career, it went up several gears in the run-up to Rio, requiring a whole-hearted commitment.

“I couldn’t pick and choose when I wanted to swim,” Arakji recalled. “I was swimming almost every day of the week, which didn’t leave me much time to have a social life with my family or friends.”

During the Olympics, the atmosphere and pressure put on athletes can be immense, but Arakji said the support she received from her family, other athletes and the committee helped her get through it.

And she has come a long way since her first-ever race, when she remembers being sick before getting in the water.

Nada Arakji

QOC

Nada Arakji

“There are so many thoughts going through my head before the start of a race, so many mixed emotions. I’m anxious, a little nervous, excited and pumped all at the same time, which is overwhelming,” she said.

“Of course, it’s not easy to stay calm in such an experience, but I always say to myself that everything will be okay and that it’ll be great no matter what so just enjoy it!”

Thoughts?

Boxer Hakan Erseker

Qatar Olympic Team/Twitter

Boxer Hakan Erseker

For the first time, athletes from Qatar will compete in the men’s boxing and volleyball categories during the Olympics this summer.

According to QNA, lightweight boxer Hakan Erseker recently made it through the qualifying rounds in the lightweight 60kg category.

The 21-year-old clinched his spot after 10 days of events in the Azeri city of Baku where 375 boxers from 92 countries fought for a place.

Erseker will be joined at Rio by the national beach volleyball team, which has also recently qualified to compete for the first time.

The team defeated China at the AVC Continental Cup, Qatar Volleyball announced on Twitter today:

Additionally, weightlifter Faris Ibrahim will be heading to Rio.

Team Qatar

The athletes join shooter Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, who will compete in his sixth consecutive Olympics, and high jumper Mutaz Barshim, who will make his second Olympic appearance.

Nada Arkaji

QOC

Nada Arakji

It will also be the second Olympics for swimmer Nada Arakji, the country’s first female swimmer to compete in the games when she swam as a wildcard entry in London in 2012.

She will compete in the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly events.

Four years ago, Qatar sent four women to the Olympics, but this summer may only send two. However, Qatar’s chef de mission to Rio Mohamed Al-Fadala said in a statement that they were trying to finalize others.

With qualifying events for the games continuing until July, Qatar’s team is nearly 30-strong and still growing, according to the QOC website.

National handball team players

Qatar 2015

National handball team players

First-timers will include the country’s handball team, who took second at last year’s World Championship in Qatar, and the equestrian jumping team.

They won the second stage of the FEI Nations Cup in Abu Dhabi last year.

Qatar’s youngest athlete will be swimmer Noah Al-Khulaifi, who said in a statement earlier this year:

“It feels incredible to be going to my first Olympic Games as a teenager. My goals are to do personal best times and maybe something special that no one else in Qatar or even in the Middle East has ever done.”

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Shawn Carpenter/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

It looks like the third time won’t be a charm for Qatar when it comes to hosting the Olympics.

Though the Gulf nation had initially said it would bid for the games in 2024 after two previous failed attempts, it did not submit an application to the International Olympics Committee (IOC) by last night’s deadline.

The shortlist of contenders released by the IOC this morning include four European cities (Hamburg, Rome, Budapest and Paris) and Los Angeles in the US.

The Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) has not publicly discussed its decision not to bid and a spokesman declined to comment to Doha News about the matter. representatives have not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Previous bids

After being awarded hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup in late 2010, Qatar set its sights on hosting the summer Olympics.

Olympic bid logo for 2020

Wikicommons

Olympic bid logo for 2020

But it was cut during the first round of the decision-making process for the 2016 games, as well as the 2020 games, in large part because of its searing summer heat.

Following the second attempt, the CEO of the bid at the time said: “Much of the legacy plans for ’20 will go on; we’ll digest the findings of the IOC report and look forward to the 2024 race.”

However, since then officials have apparently backtracked on those plans.

Earlier this year, the secretary general of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) said the nation’s officials were still making up their minds about whether to bid as host city of the world’s largest sporting tournament.

Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in January that the QOC may have been considering a longer lead time to apply as host of the games:

“We don’t know if we are going to bid for ‘24 (2024), but bidding for the Olympics it will be, I mean, either ’24, ’28 or ’32. But for the ’24 we have not made the decision yet. The decision will hopefully be before September.”

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Muhammad Kamran Qureshi/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

One of the issues around Qatar’s application for 2020 was the desert state’s climate, where temperatures can hit 50C in mid-summer.

The heat has already led to the controversial change in the time of year in which the World Cup will be played in 2022, from summer to November/December.

For the 2020 Olympics attempt, Doha’s bid had involved shifting the tournament calendar so that the games would be held in the country’s cooler winter months. While organizers said this was not considered a deal-breaker, it is understood to have been a significant reason why Qatar did not make the shortlist.

Contenders

Other cities also backed away from a 2024 bid, including Toronto, which pulled out earlier this week. The Canadian city’s mayor John Tory cited other priorities as the reason for not submitting an application.

Photo of Budapest for illustrative purposes only.

Moyan Brenn/Flickr

Photo of Budapest for illustrative purposes only.

The Azerbaijan capital of Baku also withdrew ahead of the bid submission deadline.

As the only US city to apply, LA will be seeking to host the global tournament for a third time, after staging it in 1932 and then in 1984.

If Paris wins, it will be the first time in a century that it has hosted the Olympics, after staging it in 1900 and in 1924. Rome was host to the games in 1960, while for Hamburg and Budapest, it would be their first time to have the Olympics.

The IOC will decide the winning host city in September 2017.

Thoughts?