No obstacle too great for female UAE weightlifter

The Emirati, who contracted polio as a youngster, has worked hard to prove that despite her disability, she can do what able-bodied people can do just as well, if not better, be they men or women.

Ansaf Sohail Saeed during her weightlifting practice at the Ajman Club for Disabled in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National
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An inspiring woman with a debilitating and potentially fatal disease has beaten the odds and made her country proud by taking part in international weightlifting competitions.

AJMAN // Ansaf Saeed is used to overcoming obstacles — no matter how big or tiring.

The Emirati, who contracted polio as a youngster, has worked hard to prove that despite her disability, she can do what able-bodied people can do just as well, if not better, be they men or women.

Ms Saeed, 34, joined the Ajman Club for the Disabled a little more than a year ago to learn how to compete in weightlifting, a sport usually practised by men.

“My handicap is a gift from God. It doesn’t cause me any difficulty while practising the sport,” says Ms Saeed, who walks with only a slight a limp, but cannot lift weights while standing.

Joining the club was a big step for her, but one she felt she had to take after the sudden death of her mother.

The loss of her mother hit Ms Saeed hard, and she spent about six months at home in mourning.

“After the death of my mother, I isolated myself from everyone and I stayed alone in the house for six months,” Ms Saeed says.

“I then decided to snap out of it and join a sports club after a visit to my uncle, who works as a secretary at the club. I told him I want to join a club where I was the only Emirati girl.”

In her time at the club, she was selected for her first tournament for handicapped athletes, held in South Korea, where she won third place as the only female weightlifter from the UAE.

“When I was nominated, I was thrilled at the prospect of representing my country in general and my emirate in particular,’ says Ms Saeed, who works as an administrative contact at Ajman Municipality.

“We went in October to China to train and practise intensive exercises in preparation for the competition, and then went to Korea for the tournament.”

Getting to the stage where she was strong enough to take part in international competitions was not easy, she says.

“I faced difficulty at the beginning, but encouragement and help from my coach, who was the only person to stick by me, saw me through.

“His being close and treating me as his daughter helped, in addition to my uncle’s encouragement.”

She began lifting 35 kilogram weights before going up to 70kg and now has daily, four-hour training sessions starting with dumbbells and then the long bar, adding weight gradually.

Her decision to take up the sport was met with a mixed reaction from her family.

Her sisters encouraged her to do what she wants, but her brother did not agree that this was the sport for her, not that this dissuaded Ms Saeed from training.

“My success in the tournament has taught me to put a goal in front of me and know that I have the ability to reach it and achieve what I want.

“My coach always calls me ‘UAE champion’ and I want to achieve this title,” she says.

Ms Saeed now hopes to continue with her training, as well as her education, and is studying for a bachelor’s degree in business.

roueiti@thenational.ae