He is a new Qatari prospect in the world of track and field and at 18 years of age, has already cleared 2.20m in high jump. Hamdi Alamine left Saudi Arabia to live and train in Qatar and benefit from being around world high jump No1 Mutaz Barshim and his world-class Polish coach Stanley Szczyrba.
The teenage prospect spent the summer training with Barshim in Poland and Malmo, Sweden, where he sat down with Sport360 to discuss his aspirations, how he took up the sport and what it’s like training with one of the best high jumpers to ever live.
With eyes on qualifying for the Rio Olympics next year, Alamine believes he can follow in the footsteps of Barshim, one of the Arab world’s greatest-ever track and field athletes.
It must be cool training with a world champion like Mutaz Barshim, how long have you known him?
I’ve known Mutaz for about four years now. I regard him as a big brother to me. He’s a friend, a brother, everything… he is always there for me, giving me advice, instructions… definitely a brother figure to me.
He hasn’t just had an impact on sport in Qatar, but across the Arab world. A lot of people call me and ask me about him, they wonder ‘how is he that good?’ So his influence can be felt all over the Arab world. I’ve known about him since I was a young boy, I was always up-to-date with his news and I dreamed of one day training with him. And now my dream has come true. Now, hopefully I can follow in his footsteps.
This is our third summer training together.
Have you lived all your life in Qatar?
I’m Saudi Arabian, I was born there, but now I represent Qatar. I’m based in Doha but I come to Malmo for lengthy camps, twice a year.
How did you get into high jump?
I started when I was 14 years old. I played football of course before that. I was playing a lot of football until one of my friends asked me ‘why don’t you try track and field?’ He said I have a good body for it. So I went with him, and immediately I caught the eyes of the coaches. About 18 months later I moved to Qatar.
The opportunity came my way by coincidence. One of my friends told me ‘why not check out the clubs in Qatar?’ So I got in touch with some clubs and things worked out well.
Pavel, the son of Stanley, who is Mutaz’s coach, trains me throughout the year when Stanley and Mutaz are not around. Pavel used to be a pole vaulter but he grew up with his father and is a great high jump coach.
Stanley is comedic but he’s also very, very strict. If you’re not disciplined, you won’t hear the end of it. He’s a great guy.
Did it upset anyone back in Saudi that you were going to start representing Qatar?
No why would they get upset? This is something that is my choice. It’s much better for me to be in Qatar. What do you think is better, training with a world champion and a world-class coach or staying in Saudi Arabia with a coach with no pedigree? You have to choose what’s best for you and think about your future. I couldn’t just waste my years in Saudi, not getting anywhere.
Do you feel you can reach the level Mutaz is competing at?
Why not reach his level?
I’m training with him, and I’m being coached by a world-class coach. So it’s a huge motivation to try and be like him.
You don’t learn anything overnight. Every day I’m learning something new and I try to apply it. Things take time. But I’m hopeful.
What are your main goals at the moment?
Next year my main target is to do well in the World Youth Championships and to qualify for the Olympics. I need to clear 2.28m to qualify. My PB now is 2.20m. We’re on the right track and I’m still young, I have time on my side. But still, I want to go to Rio, I don’t want to wait for another Olympic cycle.
What do you like about high jump?
I love this sport and really enjoy coming to training, it’s much better than wasting my time doing something else that’s useless. Jumping is lots of fun. I learnt a lot from this sport, managing my time well, being around Mutaz has made me act like a professional. I don’t stay up late anymore, I don’t eat junk food, my life is organised.
Do you live alone in Doha?
I have an uncle there and I have friends there but I’m living in a villa on my own.
— Amara959 (@AnnMutaz) August 22, 2013
Was it difficult moving from Saudi to Qatar at such a young age?
The transition was smooth because there aren’t that many differences between life in Saudi and in Doha. Growing up, all my friends were playing football and many of them have become professional players now. I’ve always dreamt of being a professional athlete, someone that matters in society and now I feel I’m on the right track.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
No one from my family is an athlete but my parents are my inspiration, they are always encouraging me. There’s a saying that says ‘do for yourself, by yourself’ which means you’re the one responsible for motivating yourself. So that keeps me going.
Who said that?
Tupac did. I love Tupac, I love hip-hop… rap…
What do you do when you’re not training?
Outside practice, I try to rest as much as I can. My body needs some down time between practice sessions, it needs to recuperate. Sometimes I can go for a walk on my off days or on days where I’m not too tired. I go to the movies, go to the mall, go for a coffee.
Do you feel you’re progressing the way you want to?
Everything takes time and experience really counts in sport. There are things I still can’t pull off in practice and it frustrates me sometimes, but Mutaz told me he was the same and that everything takes time.
As a teenager, do you feel you’re missing out on things in life?
I’m the kind of person, if I put my head towards something, then I must achieve it. I never think about what I’m sacrificing for the sake of sport.
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