Winning the first place in the IRONMAN 70.3 Middle East Championship in the amateur and military slot and heading to KONA, His Highness Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa gives us insights on striving towards success and reshaping the Bahrain sports sphere. His Highness shares his thoughts on Team Bahrain Merida’s debut season and invigorates the promising talents in Bahrain.
The number of Bahraini youths getting into sports is increasing every year. In addition to this, there’s a massive shift of lifestyle in Bahrain for the past four years moving into a healthier and active lifestyle. How do you think you became the inspiration behind raising awareness in sports, health and fitness in the country? What impact do you think you have made to the youth?
It made me happy and fulfilled to see Bahraini youth getting involved in sports, and I am grateful that I inspire them somehow. My primary goal is to support the youth in reaching their dreams and becoming better citizens by providing opportunities where they can get the skill set required in becoming future leaders of the country. This is one of His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s vision for the Bahraini youth. Sports are a perfect base to cultivate and nurture these traits in the youth. They’ll learn how to accept responsibility and put their best effort for the good of the whole. It will help them understand the importance of dedication, effort and teamwork to succeed.
There’s an adage that says, “Practice what you preach.” Telling people what to do without doing it yourself is not an efficient way of shifting people’s view. Hence, I have to set an example of what I preach, and that is, to be into the sports that I love and live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Team Bahrain Merida was launched last year with Nibali being the main leader of the group. What can you say about his performance in Giro and the team for the rest of the season in 2017?
Nibali is a very strong rider in the team. He gave his best and had performed well in the individual time trial during the Giro d’Italia. It was a thrilling race, and I have seen all the team riders perform brilliantly throughout the race. It was one of the world’s toughest track and race. With Team Bahrain Merida finishing third in the Giro, it is already a huge accomplishment for a whole new team that was just established.
Being their debut season, the team’s performance in 2017 was a great start and a good milestone. I am amazed at the massive number of people all over the world following the Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling team. One of their main achievements in the first year was for Bahrain to be a recognised name across the globe in the field of cycling. I am looking forward to the team to be more popular and achieving more podium wins this season.
The team always had the constant support of their sponsors without whom their success would have been impossible.
This year, the team is aiming for the podium in Tour de France, how do you think the team will perform?
I hope the team will have a podium finish in Tour de France and I believe the team is equipped with all the skills and the right people to achieve this goal. The team is constantly training and has always given their finest performance in every race. I think the team will do well. Like any other sport, the podium must not be the primary aim. It’s all about giving your best.
New sports are being introduced every year which usually takes some time for people to embrace, however, MMA is becoming a well-known sport in Bahrain. Last year was a defining year for MMA with the first IMMAF held in Bahrain, and the first event held out of Vegas. What can you say about this sport? Are there any other upcoming sports that will be introduced this year?
My brother, His Highness Shaikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa is very passionate about MMA sport and is an MMA athlete as well. It is through his vision in MMA that the Brave Combat Week including the 2017 IMMAF World Championships and Brave 9 was held in Bahrain last year. With the support and tireless efforts of the Bahrain Olympic Committee, the Bahrain Mixed Martial Arts Federation and KHK MMA, the event became one of the most successful sporting events in 2017 calendar. Although this is a combat sport, it also has its benefits from boosting self-confidence, discipline to humility.
We will continue to promote new sports that will benefit the youth the country’s economy through sports tourism. December 2017 has been a defining moment for you in achieving your goal for a slot to Kona. IRONMAN had offered a slot to you before. Why did you decline the offer and what motivates you to work on getting it through your own efforts?
I was very grateful to receive such an offer before. However, I would like to earn that spot through my own efforts just like everybody else. It has been a challenge for me to get the slot and I told myself that I could do it. I wanted to know what everyone else was going through and understand my limits as to what I can and cannot do. Every race I joined last year was a stepping stone towards that goal. I trained hard and tried to set a higher target in each race until I finally reached where I wanted to be.
Are you looking forward to the World Championship in Kona this year? How do you think you will do in the race?
I am incredibly excited to be participating in the World Championship in Kona. I have been preparing from now to get ready for it. My primary goal in Kona is to finish the race and beat the target that I have set for myself. That alone will be a great achievement for me.
Your Highness, you are often seen riding around in most areas in Bahrain. Can you share some Cycle Safe tips for the readers?
Before going out for a ride make sure that your bike is properly maintained and you have the proper gears with you. Keep on the right lane of the road and respect the motorists as respect goes both ways.