Nada Zeidan: Qatar’s action woman setting new targets

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As the Gulf region’s first female rally driver as well as a professional archer, Nada Zeidan became an inspiration for women in her home country Qatar.

She is currently combining her sporting ambitions with work at the state-of-the-art sports medicine hospital Aspetar in Doha.

Nada, who started out as a nurse, shared her experiences at the Abu Dhabi International Sports Exhibition, where Reem Abulleil found out more…

When was the last time you participated in your chosen sports?

My last participation in archery was in the 2006 Asian Games, but then I was forced to stop competing due to a shoulder injury. In rallying, my last competition was in 2010 but I can’t get myself to say that I am officially retired as a professional athlete.

I’m finding that very hard to announce. The word retirement kills me. If I find a chance to return to competition, I will do it.

What exactly would encourage you to return to competing again?

At the moment I continue to do sports as a hobby, be it horseback riding or swimming. If I get a chance, I don’t want to be like all athletes repeating the same tune like a broken record saying that sponsors are key. But if I get sponsors and the right opportunity, I could return to competing.

If I find a sponsor that feels that I can be beneficial to them and that I can play a positive role then I would do it. Athletes are ambassadors, so if I get an opportunity to represent my country and give a good image to the Arab and Muslim women, with all our traditions and customs, I would do it.

Where does your passion lie? If you had to choose one discipline, which would it be?

That’s a very difficult question. We’re talking about two sports where I was the first woman from the Gulf to compete in either one. I faced challenges, God only knows how tough they were, so each one of them is close to my heart, I can’t pick one over the other. They’re two very different sports.

What attracted you to archery and rallying?

For archery, I was attracted to the fact that it is part of our history. Reading about the history of this region, you see that archery and horseback riding and those kind things were predominant. Our religion encouraged three sports, archery, swimming and shooting. So I grew up admiring archery.

I wanted to experience the same challenges that our ancestors have experienced. It taught me so many things. It taught me patience, it taught me this indescribable feeling that connects you spiritually and physically together. The moment I am about to release, I know that it’s the right moment.

In rallying, I loved the challenge. The more difficult I realised it was, the more I fell in love with it. I had so many injuries and accidents. I once had four accidents in one month. The sponsors were like ‘Nada, what’s going on? How do you keep going?’

Such incidents strengthens your faith because you really see it that your destiny is all written and if God wants this accident to be the end of me, then it will be. Such setbacks only made me more determined.

What was your parents’ reaction when you told them you wanted to become a rally driver?

I didn’t discuss it with my mother at first. I chose to speak to my father and figured if he will accept it, he can influence her. I told my father and he told me ‘no, forget about it’ and he was leaving the room. So I called after him firmly and said ‘let me do it with your blessing, rather than do it anyway without it’. So he finally gave in and just gave me some conditions to ensure my safety.

He was surprised that I wanted to do this, but when he saw how much passion I had for it, he accepted it.

Who were your sporting idols?

Honestly, any woman who has faced any challenges, whether in sport or not, inspires me and helps me face my own challenges. So I can’t pinpoint one person I have idolised in the past, but any successful woman is an inspiration to me and has shaped my personality.

You know, I used to be a nurse, and stayed in it for 14 years. I loved it, but it was so tough. I started studying nursing when I was 15 and started practising when I was 18. So imagine being that young and have someone’s life in your hands. So going through that has helped me toughen up for what came afterwards.

How did you feel when you saw the first Qatari women competing at the Olympics in London last year?

My own dream is to compete at the Olympic Games. But of course I was so happy to see our girls going to London and I was also so proud of the Saudi women and the UAE women for competing there too. I don’t look at a specific nationality, we all represent our region. So I was so proud of all of them.

As for me, I may have not had the chance to compete in London, but I was lucky enough to carry the torch during the relay leading up to the Games. That made me extremely proud and I hope to see more women from the Gulf and the Arab world participate in the world’s biggest events.

What do you do now?

I am the Athlete Relations Manager at Aspetar, a specialised Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Doha. So I have combined both fields, medicine and sport.

Thank God I have a Bachelor’s degree in nursing and I’m also applying for an MBA programme, but you know there are many athletes out there who haven’t had the chance to get a decent education and they need someone to advise them and guide them and I have the opportunity to help those people and speak their language. I’m really happy in my current job. But I also might start getting involved with sports broadcasting by working with a major sports network. I will announce it shortly.

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