It has been a remarkable journey for Husein Alireza, the first rower to represent Saudi Arabia in the Olympic Games. From picking up rowing as a fun activity at university, Alireza has become an Olympic athlete.
Alireza has had to undergo intense months-long training camps with his coach and former Team GB silver medalist Bill Barry in order to realise his dreams, which has now taken him all the way to the Tokyo Games.
After years of preparation and just weeks before the Olympics, Alireza was hit with injury; a fractured rib resulting in a punctured lung, the complications of which would be season-ending for any elite rower. Determined to compete and make his mark in the sport, Alireza marched on.
Ahead of his semi-finals in the men’s single sculls on Thursday morning, Husein talked to The National about his Olympic experience so far, including the 24 hours in which he had to compete twice with reduced lung capacity and carry the Saudi flag in the Olympic ceremony - a moment that was bittersweet - his mother passing away last year, among other major life moments.
The Saudi Arabian rower has big plans and has put in motion a ‘movement’ to bring rowing to Saudi Arabia and expand the sport in the Middle East.
Watch as Alireza shows what life is like as an Olympic rower, with a sneak peek of his living quarters in Tokyo, including the famous cardboard bed.