- ‘Qualifying for the Games is something that happens only once in a lifetime,’ Mahassen Hala Fattouh tells Arab News
- The 31-year-old is gearing up to represent Lebanon in the 76kg category at the Games
BEIRUT: The first female weightlifter to represent Lebanon at the Olympics says she is “grateful, relieved and overwhelmed” at being selected for the 2021 Games starting in Japan in late July.
“The feeling is indescribable,” Mahassen Hala Fattouh told Arab News.
“Qualifying for the Olympics is something that only happens once.”
The 31-year-old is gearing up to represent Lebanon in the 64kg-76kg category at the Games.
Women athletes have represented Lebanon in other sports in regional, pan-Arab and continental competitions, and at the Olympics — but Fattouh is the country’s first female weightlifter to compete at the Games.
The weightlifter has a long list of regional and international competitions to her name, but was still surprised by the response to her Olympic selection, describing the numerous messages of congratulation on her social media accounts as “more than I could have ever anticipated.”
Fattouh represented Lebanon at the 2018 Mediterranean Games, and also competed in the 2018 and 2019 IWF world championships in the women’s 64 kg clean and jerk category.
She described her qualification for the Olympics as “historic,” and “something that happens only once in a lifetime.”
“I will always be the first woman to represent Lebanon in weightlifting — that is something I am so proud of. I hope to share this feeling with every Lebanese woman, girl and young person looking to make their dream a reality,” she said.
The Lebanese star said that her sporting journey “has been a long one, but having the right people at my side meant it wasn’t nearly as difficult as it could have been. That’s the most important thing for aspiring athletes.”
Lebanon’s caretaker sports minister, Vartine Ohanian, congratulated Fattouh on her selection “to represent her country well and raise its flag in a time of great joy.”
Fattouh is based in the US, where she lives with her husband, a US national.
She is ranked first in Asia and 12th in the world — rankings that promise a special performance at the Tokyo Olympics.
On her Facebook page, Fattouh posted that it is now official that in 43 days she will be the first female weightlifter in Lebanon’s history to compete at the Olympic Games.
“I am at a loss for words, but am filled with gratitude for so many people who have supported me and played a role in getting to this moment,” she said, thanking all her supporters.
She posted a photo and a similar message to her 2,000-plus Instagram followers.
Fattouh told Arab News that she is “simply aiming to have a good competition and break my personal records.”
She advised other aspiring female athletes to “surround yourself with people who believe in you as much as you do, and never stop working toward your goals. My biggest hope is that we have a full team of women for future competition.”