Nasser al-Attiyah reckons he would most probably be donning an ambassadorial role if Qatar gets to host the Asian Games in 2030 for which Doha is competing with Riyadh.
“I don’t know how old I will be then,” he chuckled when asked if he still sees himself as a competitor in 10 years’ time. “I think I would most likely be an ambassador for the country during the 2030 Asian Games if Doha wins the bid,” the bronze medallist in skeet shooting at the 2012 London Olympics and three-time Dakar Rally champion told the Gulf Times yesterday.
But it didn’t take more than a few seconds for the competitor in him to take over. “Who knows what’s in store for me? As of now the thought of retirement has never occurred to me,” said the 49-year-old.
“I am still enjoying both shooting and driving. I am maintaining my fitness and if it stays that way then anything is possible!”
There are numerous examples of sportspersons excelling at competitive sport even when they were well into their 40s or even past the half-century mark. American George Foreman became heavyweight boxing champion at the age of 45 in 1994 by knocking out compatriot Michael Moorer, who was just 26.
When Moorer was just a year old, Foreman had already made a name for himself as the Olympic heavyweight champion in 1968, winning the gold by defeating the Soviet Union’s Jonas Cepulis in two rounds in Mexico City.
But al-Attiyah doesn’t have to look at other sports for inspiration. After all, the oldest medalist at the Olympics is a shooter! Sweden’s Oscar Swahn competed in three Olympic Games and won six medals, three of them gold.
At the 1908 Olympics in London, he won two gold medals in the running deer event (predecessor to the running target competition) at the age of 60.
But Swahn was far from finished.
At the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, he won a silver medal at the ripe young age of 72, a record that still stands. Even when it comes to rallying, age is no barrier as several drivers have proved over the years. The best example is that of Spaniard Carlos Sainz who won his third Dakar Rally title last year at the age of 57 to become the event’s oldest champion in history.
He beat his own record by two years, having become the then oldest champion by winning the world’s most gruelling motor racing event in 2018.
Incidentally, al-Attiyah won the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) for the 16th time on Wednesday after the final round scheduled to be held in Lebanon this week was cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Al-Attiyah and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel had won the first round in Oman before the second and third legs in Qatar and Jordan were scrapped due to the pandemic.
The duo claimed the Cyprus Rally title last month to cement their position at the top and were declared champions following Lebanon’s decision not to hold the final round. “Yeah, this has been a very strange year because of the virus,” al-Attiyah said. “But you have to make the most of the chances that come your way and the MERC organisers really did a good job of managing the event this year.”
He is now gearing up for the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia in January where he hopes to win the prestigious title for the fourth time.
“My preparations are going on well and my confidence is high,” said al-Attiyah. “I am maintaining my fitness routine and physically and mentally I am well prepared for the race.”
Reverting to the 2030 Asian Games, al-Attiyah said Doha is the favourite to win the bid. “In 2006 when Qatar hosted the Asian Games I think people around the world were a bit surprised.
“But Qatar has grown by leaps and bounds since then. We are now hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022 and we have also ambitions to organise the Olympics in the future. “We not only have all the infrastructure in place but also a great deal of experience hosting global events. All Qataris will be happy to have another prestigious sporting event like the Asian Games happening in the country.”
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