Fares Ibrahim Elbakh: The story behind Qatar's first Olympic gold medallist

Fares Ibrahim Elbakh: The story behind Qatar's first Olympic gold medallist
4 min read
Fares Ibrahim Elbakh became the first Qatari to win an Olympic gold medal, which he secured on Saturday, after promising his fans in the Arab world that he would win gold. So, who is the Qatari weightlifting star and what is his story?
The weightlifter set two Olympic records [DeFodi Images via Getty Images]

The Qatari weightlifter Fares Ibrahim Elbakh’s confidence shone through as he secured the gold medal for the men’s 96kg weightlifting event on Saturday, fulfilling his promise to Arab audiences that he would win gold in Tokyo.

Elbakh made full use of the delay to the Tokyo Games, and had spared no effort in preparing himself fully for the prestigious international event, entering numerous training camps before going on to win gold. 

But who is the Qatari weightlifter Fares Ibrahim Elbakh?

Elbakh was born on 4 June 1998, to a sports-loving family with a history in weightlifting: his father had represented the Egyptian team in the Olympic Games of 1984, 1988 and 1992. Elbakh says he was keen on sports from a young age and started practicing weightlifting when he was nine: “Since I was young, I dreamt of becoming a successful weightlifter like my dad”. He puts down his success to the special relationship he has with his father, who is his coach and inspiration.  

“My dad has always encouraged me to give my very best, and has worked to build up my self-confidence, saying – ‘Fares, you can do anything you want as long as you have confidence in yourself and in your ability’. My dad understands me like no other - I don’t have to explain when I’m tired for example, as he knows what I need, and we understand each other”.

Elbakh believes that his relationship with his dad as a coach is so successful because: “He can deal with me on a number of different levels: he is my coach in the gym, my father at home, and my friend outside the house”.

Elbakh started achieving his dreams of success at a very young age. In 2014, when he was only 16, he won the Qatar Cup and broke the junior world record. This was his first major prize and it was to be followed soon after with multiple successes on the international stage, all of which increased his motivation to keep breaking records and working harder towards his goal of winning an Olympic medal.

Having become one of Qatar’s brightest young talents on the sporting scene at an early age, weightlifting has become more than a profession to Elbakh – to him it also represents family and lifestyle. By the time he reached 19 he had an impressive record, including having won the Junior World Weightlifting Championships in 2017, the bronze medal, which he bagged at the Asian Championships in 2016 and having been placed seventh in the 2016 Olympics.

Like most other professional sports, in order to excel and stand out from others, weightlifting demands total dedication, whereby to reach the top in weightlifters one must make many sacrifices in order to commit all their time and effort to training.

Nutrition also plays a big role, especially in the 84kg and 100kg categories. Therefore, Fares and his team are careful to monitor their food intake and the number of calories they burn; weightlifters generally need to eat a large amount. For example, Elbakh will consume the equivalent of a whole sheep over a 10-day period, and eat certain meals containing enough vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates as well as taking essential vitamins and minerals.

After his experience in the Olympic games in Rio De Janeiro in 2016, Fares was determined to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, after winning gold in the sixth Qatar Cup Championships. Not only did he qualify: the Qatari weightlifter has won the Olympic gold medal and fulfilled his promise to win gold. 

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.This article is part of The New Arab's special coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. Click here to read the whole series.