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.
The UAE team completed their Fazza International Wheelchair Basketball Championships campaign on a high as they beat Japan in a tight contest to secure fifth place overall.
The hosts made a turnaround from their poor start to the Championships as they recorded their second win in as many days, 52-46 against a determined Japanese side.
The UAE raced to a 16-9 lead in the first quarter and were equally dominant in the second, which ended 30-17, but a tight third quarter saw the Japanese score 14 points to the Emiratis’ 15, but it proved only a brief blip as the hosts came back stronger in the final quarter to seal the victory.
“Every year we do our best to host more international teams – and not just invite our neighbouring countries – and that is to try and face tougher opposition and raise the general level of competition in the Championships,” said Ahmed Hassan, head of the technical committee of the tournament.
“We always aim for our UAE team to gain more experience from these stronger teams and I have to say that this year we have started to see glimpses of improvement and the presence of countries like Turkey and Germany has helped us step out of our regional veil.
“The experience we’re gaining isn’t just limited to our players. Our classification judges and referees are also getting a lot out of this tournament, especially that we’ve run a special training programme for all participating referees on the sidelines of this competition.”
Other action on Tuesday saw Oman beat China 47-44 to finish seventh in the tournament. The match of the day witnessed some valiant efforts from Iraq, who fought hard before falling 58-54 to Turkey, who booked their spot in the final.
Tournament favourites Germany showed no mercy against Kuwait in the other semi-final, advancing to the title match with a 71-54 victory.
The Championships come to a close on Wednesday with Iraq taking on Kuwait in the third-place playoff at 17:00 before Germany face Turkey in the final at 19:00.
A celebratory closing ceremony is planned for 20:45.
Scott Jones missed out on being part of Team GB at the London Paralympics last year because they were worried the pressure would be too much for him at 14.
But after setting two new world records in the discus and shot put events at the Fazza International Athletics Championships, he proved his talent.
Jones competed in able-bodied athletics before suffering stroke-like symptoms three years ago and now competes in para-athletics.
Sport360° caught up with Jones, 15 and his mother Liz, to find out more about a star in the making.
You just set your second new world record, how did that feel?
SJ: It was really weird. My first two throws weren’t brilliant. My first one wasn’t anywhere, then the second one just flew. It was like a metre over the world record and I was like ‘whoa’. Then the next one went further and it just went on from there.
How much training do you do?
SJ: Five days a week, Monday to Friday, and Saturdays I sometimes have competitions. And Sundays are mostly a day off.
How do you manage your time between the disciplines you compete in?
SJ: I train at school, so in my PE sessions I do gym sessions or aerobics – that normally helps with my technique. So I have machines that can help me when I throw.
At training I do three events. Monday, I do shot put and discus. Then on Tuesday I would do discus and club, then on Thursday I would do club and shot put. We always alternate so I get the same amount of events per week.
How did you make the transition from able-bodied athletics to para-athletics?
SJ: I used to train before my injury about two-three times a week. Then, afterwards I had a few months off and started getting back into it once a week. Then up to twice a week, then gradually up to five.
It started off as just a hobby. I never thought it would come to what it is now. I didn’t think three years later I’d be up on the podium with two world records.
Talk to me about your support system. Who has helped you most in your career?
SJ: My parents who got me into the sport. My PE teachers, they make sure I’m doing the right stuff at school. And my coach Caroline, who has got me to where I am now. I probably wouldn’t be here without her.
How is it competing in the Middle East?
SJ: I’ve competed in bigger competitions than this. Biggest is 3000, that was able-bodied. But this is different because of the weather. I’ve never been in anything over 25 degrees so it was a bit of a shock when I came out to do the discus and it was 24 degrees at night. And I was like ‘why is it this hot?’
It’s weird because none of the officials spoke English. They all spoke in Arabic around me. I’m not used to that and it sounds like they’re shouting at me, but they’re not. Then they smile and I get it. It’s also different with the athletes here because they don’t try to psyche you out. Other competitions they try mind games and stuff, but here they’re really friendly.
Would you compete next year?
SJ: Definitely. Any day of the week.
After setting two world records, what are your current goals in the sport?
SJ: I want to get selected for the World Championships. Maybe a medal, but I’m also looking more for the experience there. Then to go to the 2014 European Championships, which are in my home country, like an hour away from home. Then in 2015 there’s the World Championships in Qatar which I’d like to get to again and hopefully get on the podium. Then Rio 2016 obviously.
Do you have any sporting idols you draw inspiration from?
Who are they? SJ: I used to be a rugby player before my injuries and Mike Tindall used to be my idol. Now it’s probably any Paralympian because they have to go through a lot more than anyone else.
You attended the London 2012 Paralympics, even though you didn’t compete, how was the experience?
SJ: Every time we saw a British person or a flag or an athlete, the crowd just went for it, shouting, screaming. Then when someone won a medal everyone was just roaring. People got more aware of disabilities that way which is good. People used to stare at you walking, but now they just walk past you and it’s normal and they’re not bothered. And they also seem more receptive to the sport.
What do you do in your free time?
SJ: I do sports scouts, I hang out with my girlfriend and friends, while school takes up quite a lot of time. I watch a lot of rugby, union and league. Football sometimes, I’m a Wolves fan. I watch a lot of American football – college football. I watch a lot of athletics obviously, able-bodied, disability, I don’t care.
Liz, how proud are you of Scott’s accomplishments here in Dubai?
LJ: Very proud. He’s handled himself very well for someone as young as he is. We had the classification when we came here, that was very nerve-racking, but he’s done brilliantly.
How was the transition like for you after his injury?
LJ: After the first illness, the stroke-like symptoms, he was in hospital for five weeks. I officiated athletics, so he came with me for one at our club, we call them mid-summer opens, and the next thing I’m looking over and he’s having a go from his wheelchair. He had another illness after that, but he still kept going and turned up to training. So Caroline, his coach, thought ‘we’ll run with this then’.
Do you ever worry about the pressure?
LJ: He’s sensible and he’ll just go for it.