Wednesday, January 23, 2013

10 Questions with Qatar's Shaden Whadan

In the small country of Qatar, gymnastics is on the up rise. Although they may be unknown in the gymnastics world, they are quickly making history in their country and have a story that should be shared with everyone.

The Aspire Zone

For as long as history goes back, Qatar has never expressed interest in women's sports at the world level. (Due to their religion and culture) In fact, Qatar has never had a female athlete compete in an Olympic games until 2012 when Noor Hussain Al-Malki made history by being selected to represent Qatar in track and field. (Although she injured herself and could not compete) Their gymnastics program didn't come about until 2002 when it was created by Jacqueline Quirin-Herbrand at a world class facility in Doha called "Aspire Zone" which is basically heaven for any Qatar athlete. Otherwise known as the Doha Sports City, the Aspire Zone is a 2.5 square kilometer complex that has a 50,000 seat stadium, an Olympic sized swimming pool, and indoor facility's for 13 sports including gymnastics. Although they only have a national team of about 8 girls, they are determined to make a difference. Shaden Whadan is a 16 year old gymnast from Qatar who has represented her country at the 2010 Youth Olympics, making her the first female to compete for Qatar at an Olympic event, her leotard from that competition proudly hangs in an Olympic museum that was opened up in Qatar. Shaden also was the first women from Qatar to not only represent her country at the Arab games, but win multiple medals. The most difficult part of women's sports in Qatar is finding appropriate uniforms. "The dress code is a big problem in these sports." said Lolwah Al Marri, the general Secretary of Qatar's Olympic committee. But for Shaden, it is the least of her worries, "It's not a problem. I don't really care what people think. I just want to compete and win medals!" she says.  And that's exactly what she has been doing. Shaden was happy to share with us how she got started in gymnastics, what gymnastics is like in Qatar, and her future plans.

Photo Credit: Doha Stadium Plus

Triple Twist: When did gymnastics in Qatar develop and how did you get started?

Shaden: "My mum got me into gymnastics because she believed that the basics to any sport was in gymnastics, so I got pretty good at it and continued. I also come from a family with an athletic background, both my parents did athletics/track&field. Gymnastics was introduced in Qatar in 2002 and that was when I officially joined."

Triple Twist: What do you think has been your greatest acomplisnment in gymnastics so far?

Shaden: "The most memorable thing through my journey as a gymnast was achieving 5 medals at the 2011 Arab Games. I won 2 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medal. Another memorable experience was representing Qatar in 2010 at the first youth Olympics in Singapore."

Triple Twist: What does it mean to you to be able to represent your country on the world stage?

Shaden: "It is an honor for me to represent my country and I really enjoy it."

Triple Twist:  Do you have a role model in gymnastics?

Shaden: "Nastia Liukin"

Triple Twist: What would you like to see happen in the future of Qatar gymnastics?

Shaden: "I predict that gymnastics in Qatar will improve and that our level as gymnasts will develop."

Triple Twist:  Do you plan to continue with gymnastics? If so, what are your plans?

Shaden: "I hope to continue with gymnastics, but i'm focusing more on my education since I just started university. Its been really hard and frustrating to balance both tasks, but I hope I can do it. I plan to achieve a medal in the upcoming challenge cups that I will be participating in. If not the next one.. then the ones after that."

Triple Twist: What would you like to do when you are done with gymnastics?

Shaden: "After i'm done with my gymnastics career, I hope to graduate from my university with a bachelors degree and become a sports reporter."

Triple Twist: How many hours do you train per week?

Shaden: "I train 3 and a half hours a day, 6 times a week."

Triple Twist: Women competing in sports is not very common in Qatar, why do you think that is?

Shaden: "Women's sports in Qatar was not so popular in the past due to religion and culture, but as you can see there has been a sudden change and women in Qatar seem to be having a breakthrough with all the accomplishments and achievements they have made in different sports. It takes a lot of hard work and training to make it to the highest level."

Triple Twist: Who gives you the best advice?

Shaden: "The best advice I must say came from my mum who has been very supportive and encouraging by attending every competition of mine and always being there for me whenever I feel down."

Photo Credit: Unkown

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