Amna Al Haddad created history by being the first Emirati and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizen to take part as a weightlifting champion in the Asia Regionals and the first and single Muslim woman to do so in a scarf.
Born on October 21, 1989, in Dubai, Amna Al Haddad started her weightlifting profession in 2007 at 19. She took part in her first venture in October 2011. From then on, her career as a weightlifting champion escalated at international levels. She was the first Emirate female to participate in the Reebok CrossFit Games open and they ranked her 77th out of 170 women in Asia.
In May 2012, she teamed up with Asia Regionals CrossFit Team in Korea. From there she entered the Olympic Weightlifting in 2013, as to crack to be for her country at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. She took part in Arnold Sports Festival for three years at a stretch. She took part in competitions in Europe as well.
In April 2015, she competed in IWF Asian interclub championship and won 6 gold medals and 3 silver in the Arab, West Asian, and Asian Categories in the 63 kgs for her country.
Another milestone she created by being the first Arab female athlete to kick-start “We Run Dubai”, Nike’s 10 k marathon in the year 2015.
All this came after a lot of mental and physical struggle. Amna was depressed and obese in the initial stage. It all changed when Amna took a walk. She initially joined a gym named CrossFit and was training for it. Later, when she changed her mind set about the view of strength for women, she fell in love with weightlifting.
Amna was a celebrity athlete initially, and in her brief occupation, she went from one success to another within a short period. But this list of achievements of her victory has to be analyzed on how it started. She was not in her normal mind when she started. She underwent crippling depression and achieved this victory.
Her emotional journey started when she was groomed to be an athlete from birth. By the age of 19, she had experienced a depression that made her over-eat, sleep in, and bargain suicidal thoughts. After realizing that she had been hopeless, heavy, and ashamed for too long, she needed to come out of it, she took action as simple as a walk.
She had said that this simple walk was the best decision she took in her life as she did take action, took charge. It was not the hijab, or coming from the Middle East, and also not being a woman.
This small physical act has turned her journey into history. After deciding that weight lifting was her love, she has to face several criticisms of a woman with a hijab entering a masculine sport like weightlifting, dismissing other’s opinion with shock, mockery. and discrimination of her womanhood on every level. She directly disperses it. She said she has become more feminine because of the masculine sport.
Although she has come from a society where women are expected, speak, and behave in a certain way. But if a woman takes a different track, then she is a curse to society despite not being her intention. Amna has proved to herself that women can be collective, focus, and also act of resistance.
In 2015, staying alone financially, emotionally, and physically stressed her a lot. She then went back to when she was 19 to take up the anti-depressant act. It was during that time she found out that her back pain was because of a disk injury. This injury would have led to her retirement. But she didn’t want to go down and so fought for it. During this time, they invited her to join the UAE national team that was practicing for the Olympics. After so much debating, she thought to give this a shot and prove her capability one more time and show others she was not a quitter. So, she joined the team and got qualified after her treatment. But later she could not continue because of her treatment and she does short films and showed bedtime storybooks for rebel girls.
Although she carried so many crowns to her still, she is identified as a hijab athlete. Next, they identified her for her honesty and her readiness to talk about her mental illness comes second. She is concerned that media is focused on victimizing athletes who take part in hijabs, on what they are wearing, in making them feel low, and not giving attention to the person’s talents and capabilities.
After her athletic career ended, Al Haddad has been focusing as a mental health advocate and inspirational speaker. Since then, she is transforming people, particularly women, and give them choices for relieving, wherein this society makes no room for us to convey, experiment, and cure that has to be created by ourselves.