Nada Mohamed Wafa – The First woman to represent Qatar in the Olympics

 Nada Mohamed Wafa  

The First woman to represent Qatar in the Olympics

Nada,  the daughter of  former Qatar National Football Team goalkeeper and Al Sadd player Mohamed Wafa; discovered her passion for swimming at a very young age, her perseverance and passion for swimming have made her  the first woman to represent Qatar in the Olympics – London 2012

A young dynamic individual whose dreams to compete in the Olympics came true.

Armed with her big dreams, inspiration and the will of a game changer, Nada continues to push forward with her dreams to bring home the Gold.

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Having completed the 50 m freestyle at the 2012 Summer Olympics, becoming the first woman to represent Qatar at the Olympics London 2012 and Rio2016,  Nada has also served on the bid committee for Doha’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.

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I had the opportunity to speak and interview Nada Mohamed Wafa.

Umm Suhail: Hello and thank you for the opportunity you have given me to speak to you

Nada: Hello, it’s my pleasure!

Q: Did you ever fantasize about being in the Olympics when you were a child?

A: Yes, actually when I was younger, I remember I was with my family, and at that time we were all watching the Beijing Olympics, specifically the swimming events, and I saw how Michael Phelps was owning it in the pool. From that age I was so passionate about swimming, I really had high goals and dreams to be in the Olympics. I even remember my family’s response when they told me “Inshallah if you continue to work hard you can make it to the Olympics”.

Q: Was there any particular event or athlete who impressed you early on?

A: There were many athletes earlier on that were inspiring to watch, such as Federica Pellegrini and Michael Phelps. When I competed in the London Olympics 2012 and Rio Olympics 2016, there were more athletes I was impressed by, such as Missy Franklin, Simon Manual, Katie Ledecky..

Q: Were you athletic as a kid? What made you want to start?

A: Yes, I started getting into sports at a young age. I tried out many sports, my mum put me in so many classes, such as swimming (ofc haha), basketball, ballet, netball etc to see which I enjoyed the most. I wanted to continue with swimming because I just fell in love with the water, I always loved being in the pool, whether it was to train or for fun, I just didn’t want to leave.

Q: Who encouraged you to pursue your sport?

A: First of all, I would like to thank my parents for always being there for me, for being the best support system and attending all my events to cheer me on. My friends as well were always supporting me, whether it’s on social media or coming to watch.

At the age of 9, I joined a small swimming club called Tidal Waves, and was coached by a lovely Scottish lady. She noticed how dedicated I was towards the sport, and how much I loved and was passionate about swimming, representing my school and club in many competitions locally and internationally, winning many medals and trophies, which made her realize that I could go far with it.

Q: How important is goal setting to your training?

A: Goal setting is very important, it helps lead me to the right direction, it gives me a long-term vision of what I want to achieve, and short-term motivation to constantly believe I can surpass my goals.

Q: What is your proudest moment as an athlete?

A: My proudest moment was when I got to be the first female Qatari swimmer to compete in the London Olympics 2012 and inspiring so many girls to dream big.

Q:Have there been any key turning points in your development as an athlete to reach this level, or has it been more a case of steady progression with the right support at the right time?

A: Honestly it’s been more of a case of steady progression with the right support from people at the right time. I like to take it day by day and live the present moment.

Q: What is your favorite stroke?

A: 50m butterfly and 50m/100m freestyle.

Q: Why do you like swimming more than other sports? Why?

A: Because it feels like I’m occupied inside a quiet, refreshing, technology free element, which helps me focus only on swimming and nothing else. Swimming is also known to be the best sport in terms of health and coordination.

Q: How long have you been swimming?

A: At the age of 9, when I joined my first swimming club, trained and competed.

Q: What is you fastest time in (favorite stroke and length)?

A: 50m freestyle 29.97 seconds.

Q: When do you practice? For how long?

A: 5 times a week for 3 hours (including land training)

Q: When you have an “off” day when motivation seems to elude you, how do you push through it?

A: I remind myself of the goals I set and how I want to achieve them, and I also think of what it feels like when such goals are met.

Q: Do you reward yourself when you reach goals? If so, which goals (large ones or the small ones, too) and how?

A: Knowing that I am able to reach my goals, no matter how big or small such goals are, and feeling really content about it is such a huge reward and honor for me.

Q: What is your training schedule like?

A: Land training 3 times a week for 30 minutes to one hour, then I get into the pool and do warm up and technique exercises, different sprinting sets etc. then stretches after training to cool off muscles.

Q: What are your favorite go-to meals and snacks?

A: Salmon (cooked or raw) and sushi, burgers (cheat meal) and for snacks I like to have bars, smoothies and ice cream

Q: How important is cross-training? What do you do for cross-training?

A: It’s quite important as it helps prevent injuries and maintain fitness and allows for better performance in the water. I usually work with some weights and circuit training.

Q: What was the last piece of advice your coach said to you before you competed?

A: “You can do it, go out there, do your best and have fun”.

Q: Do you have a word or mantra that you say to yourself when you’re competing?

A: “Be the best you can be”

Q: What one or two things did you do in your training that helped you to get this far?

A: Positive thoughts (keeping goals in mind), staying focused

Q: Do you hear the crowd roaring when you’re swimming?

A: Just before the starting blocks, I can somewhat hear the crowd, but once I take my mark on the starting blocks everything seems so quiet and I just focus on how I’m going to swim the race. Once the race is over, the sound of the crowd cheering comes rushing back again.

Q: What was the hardest part of getting to where you felt ready to compete?

A: Pushing through hard training sets that sometimes felt impossible to do, but I knew that once I finish them, and finish them well, that’s when I’m one step closer to reaching my goal.

Q: What was the atmosphere like at the Olympics?

A: The atmosphere was amazing! It was so lively and great sportsmanship all around! The athletes’ village was wonderful, especially when meeting new people and getting to know more about their different cultures. The opening ceremony was extraordinary. I was so proud and honored to hold my country’s flag up high (#yallaqatar) and knowing that I am inspiring younger generations to take part in sports, especially swimming.

Q: Have you ever felt like giving up while training?

A: Not necessarily give up, but thought it was impossible to do such a training set. It was tough at times but had to push through.

Q: Which cities do you train in?

A: Doha. I also went to a training camp in Hungary before the London Olympics 2012.

Q: What do you do on your days off?

A: Hang out with family, friends, relax (sleep in), spend time outdoors when the weather is nice.

Q: Who is the greatest athlete of all time?

A: I’d say Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps.

Q: Who is your best friend in sports?

A: It’s nice to have friends from all around the world and just meeting new people whenever there’s a competition, especially when you haven’t seen them in a while and reunite in different championships.

Q: What are your favorite colors to wear when competing?

A: Pink, purple, blue, green – those colors help to brighten up my day when competing.

Q: If you weren’t competing what would you want to do?

A: I would say working in the fashion industry because I love exploring fashion trends, the different designs, styles etc

Q: What are the “must” items that you keep in your training bag?

A: Kick board, flippers, paddles, pull buoy, snorkel, rubber band for training exercises, Gatorade, water bottle.

Q: What advice would you give to people who have a passion for sport but don’t have support from their families or their peers?

I would say dream big. Don’t give up and keep practicing to chase your dreams because sports is an important part in people’s lives as it encourages a healthier lifestyle. For example, if PE teachers notice that they have talented athletic students from a young age in schools or even universities, the first best thing to do is to inform their family, as a way of valuing and encouraging them to pursue their talents.

Q: Your advice for your and upcoming athletes?

My advice to them is to try their best no matter what and to believe in themselves. Take everything one step at a time, just enjoy what you do and keep going!

Q: What would you like your legacy to be?

Legacy of leadership and inspiration- knowing that I was able to inspire girls in my country Qatar or even around the world to be passionate and even if they do sports just for fun, as long as they aim to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Q: Your message for 2017?

If you are passionate about something, whether it’s a sport, a job, an internship or whatever it is, go out there and grab it, seize the opportunity and remember to be the best you can be and have fun! No matter what you encounter, you can overcome any barrier that comes in your way because you know you are doing what makes you happy and what you think can make a difference in this world.

Follow Nada’s jounrney on:

Instagram: @nadaarakji

Twitter: _nadooda

FB: nada arakji

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Posted by

A South African currently living and working in Qatar always striving to contribute towards the “change” where emails will be short, love letters brave and every “thank you” note be hand written! As I move through life, I want to share my experiences - the interesting places I am so fortunate to visit, the amazing people I meet and the profound moments I am blessed with. When I am not working, you can find me watching Pretty Woman or Devdas for the 101th time, I watch obscene amounts of television without a trace of shame, surf the net, visit main stream or boutique hotels, restaurants and street food vendors, specialized coffee shops or the local karak drive through stores, High end stores to 5Riyal stores, Home Interior Stores or drive aimlessly looking for inspiration for my next post, the ultimate photo opportunity or simply write about what captures my imagination.

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