Exclusive Interview With Kuwait’s First Golden Olympian Fhaid Al Dehani

Just participating in the Olympic Games would be a dream come true for any athlete, but what about winning the title of Olympic champion?

Fhaid Al Dehani renewed hope and confidence in the heart of every athlete and inspired a nation when he received the gold medal in the double-trap shooting tournament at this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This great victory was Fhaid’s third Olympic medal, having won bronze in both Sydney 2000 and London 2012, and he rightly returned to Kuwait to a hero’s welcome.

Perfect Fit Magazine is proud to present this exclusive interview with the champion himself where he tells us more about the tournament, his future ambitions plus a little bit about the man behind the medal…

Fhaid, please tell us about how you got into the world of shooting as a sport?

I’ve been shooting since I was a child, thanks to my father. He taught my six brothers and me this wonderful sport. My brother Fahed practiced it while I was at military college, and after graduation, I was able to give my full attention to shooting and used my salary for training and preparation. I became the top player at ‘skeet and trap’ in Kuwait and took my place in the national team.

What have been your most important achievements?

I started competing internationally in 1991. My first contest was the Asian Championships in Beijing and I was in line for first place until a judging error made me lose the medal. Thanks to God I then became Champion of Asia for 12 years. In 1993, I won Kuwait’s first international medal in Seoul, South Korea then the first Asian Games medal in Hiroshima, Japan. Over another four years, I gained another four medals at the Asian Games plus broke a world record, then more importantly I won the Olympic bronze medal at Sydney in 2000 and again at London in 2012.

How did it feel to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016?

It means a lot to me. I’m very happy and proud to see the happiness in Kuwait and all across the Gulf and the Arab world. I am also so grateful to everyone that expressed joy in my victory.

Have you had any coaches that you’d like to show appreciation to?

There was a Filipino coach that lived in Kuwait for six months but unfortunately had to leave the country due to bad health. While he was here, he advised me that he didn’t know much about shooting but could teach me how to focus, control my pain and regulate my heartbeat. I learned something from him every day of the six months he was here and he was a very important part of my training.

Did you experience any difficulties participating in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games?

There were many difficulties. It began with the government’s refusal to participate under the Olympic flag. This put pressure on me. Some people accused me betraying the country and it was like psychological pressure. Externally, a lot of countries did not like our participation and would spread rumours about us. There was an attach from the international Shooting Federation as they deliberately seemed to want me to lose; my name kept slipping down the scoreboard. After I won my name was not mentioned in their pages for three days, like they couldn’t accept it. Another shooter even tried to distract me by throwing pellets at me! Thank God I have proved my worth to everyone with this win. The most important thing was to show that Kuwait will not back down from participating in this important tournament.

What has shooting taught you?

Challenge, concentration and patience.

What are your ambitions for retirement?

My ambition is to create a private academy for shooting. It will be a real, professional club that is based around my own scientific theories of shooting not a school for amateurs. You won’t be able to find another place like it anywhere else.

Outside of shooting, what is your home life like?

I have four sons and two daughters. I am extremely organised so I like to have a system in place at home, and no chaos. This might bother some of my family but it’s what I’m accustomed to. I like peace and quiet at home. My house is designed with lots of wide-open spaces and high ceilings. I like to take care of fine details and I appreciate beautiful things, so I like to collect luxury items such as cars, clothing and fine watches.

Do any of your children practice shooting as a sport?

They all love shooting but I don’t let them do it during study time. Once they have completed their studies and obtained their certificates, then it’s fine by me. No doubt I will train them myself and I would love to see them reach the same professional level that I reached and not just be an average-level athlete.

How does the professional level and average level differ?

Unfortunately, the professional level in Kuwait is almost non-existent. Most of the shooting players in Kuwait are non-pros. To reach professional level takes around eight hours of practice a day, along with two or three hours of physical sports. I stopped practicing sports after an injury, which led me to gain a few kilos but now I work out at home in my own professionally-equipped gym.

What are your hobbies outside of shooting?

I love to take hunting trips in the mountains. I have been to some beautiful places in India, Iran, Pakistan and Spain where I can hunt birds and mountain goats. I also support Barcelona Football Club.

Is healthy eating important to you?

It certainly is. Following a healthy food system helped me to lose 21kg (46lbs). My family and I started to veer away from well-known Kuwaiti dishes that are high in calories, fat and oil. Now we opt for grilled meat, steamed rice and salads. I also care very much about high quality, expensive ingredients and a salad I make may contain four different types of lettuce, olive and Argan oils, balsamic vinegar and Himalayan salt for its natural health benefits. I create my own blends of recipes and they are delicious.

Do you take any supplements?

Not at all. I can get all my health benefits from fruits, vegetables, nuts, flax seeds, figs, coffee and yogurt. I start every day with seven dates and a cappuccino.

And finally, to whom do you owe your success?

I give thanks to God. I also give thanks to my father, my brothers and all my family. I’d like to say a special thank you to Sheikh Salman Al Sabah and all the people of Kuwait.

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