Haidar Nawzad – Iraq
1.How long have you been rowing?
I was a kayaker from 2003 until 2006 when I had to leave Baghdad because of the situation there. Whe
n I returned in 2008 I took up rowing because all my upper body muscles had gone…..!
2.How old are you?
How tall are you and how heavy?
I was born in 1989 am 184cm tall and 68kg.
3.What were your aims for the Asian Olympic Qualification Regatta here in Chungju?
Our aim was to qualify for the Olympics however, we had a very bad last half of our race today and so finished fourth and race the B final tomorrow.
I am really very sad today as it is the end of my dream of going to London 2012. In time I will move my focus and dream on to the 2016 Olympics as I am still very young but today is still a very sad day.
4.What is your best result?
5th place in the heavy quad at the Asian Championships in Korea last year. I also won two bronze medals at the Arab Championships in 2009.
5.Will you continue rowing?
Yes I will but once I have finished my studies I would like to go and train abroad. Daily life in Iraq at the moment is very difficult which does not make it the ideal place to achieve our full potentia
l. We are also competing against other countries whose athletes can focus solely on their training wi
thout having to work out what the safest route is to the boat house each day, negotiate a range of checkpoints or decide if it would be more sensible to use the ergo at home.
6.What does your family think about your rowing obsession?
My father is the president of the Iraq Rowing Association and is incredibly supportive of me and keeps me training hard. On the other hand my mother thinks that studying is more important than rowing….!
7.What do you think of the course and camp in South Korea?
It is a perfect location very natural but the wind can vary wildly during the course of racing which makes it difficult to compare times.
8.Do you get support from government?
Yes we are all full time athletes. Rowing is very well supported financially we have good equipment and boats it is just the difficulties of living in Iraq at the moment that makes everything that much harder.
9.For people living outside Iraq it is hard to imagine what it must be like can you tell us a bit about your daily routine?
Everyday you have to work out what the safest route to the boat house is and the journey time can vary hugely taking up to an hour and a half to get there. Then I have to go to college for the rest of the day before negotiating the streets and numerous checkpoints all over again to get back to the club for training. I can’t train at night because my family want me to be safely inside this means training during the day when it is very hot. Because of all the checkpoints you can’t carry a rucksack so eating healthily when away from home is very difficult because you cannot take food with you and have to rely on the college canteen. My family is at the moment living in my Aunt’s house because the situation in our home town is so bad. I lost many friends. I took a rowing machine home so that I could train on that when it is not possible to get to the club.
10.What do you like to do in your free time?
Because going out worries my family so much I spend any free time I have after training and studying playing on my Xbox 300, surfing the internet and chatting to people on facebook.
11.What do you think helps make you a successful rower?
A clear mind – making sure that all worry and stress is minimized. Good coaches are also important and talking to other people about their experiences and not being afraid to ask for their advice or point of view.
12. What are facilities like where you train?
The equipment is really good we just struggle with a lack of international rowing experience from the coaches to the athletes. Many Asian countries who are developing the sport of rowing employ foreign coaches to pass on their knowledge of racing at an elite level. Because of the current climate in Iraq it is difficult to attract foreign coaches. So everyone involved in the sport in Iraq keeps in contact with a lot of rowers and coaches around the world so we can ask advice and questions not only for our own personal development as athletes but also so we can improve our team as a whole.
13.What’s your message for all the Asian countries competing here in Chungju?
Having a united country is so incredibly important and make the most of all the opportunities you get.