The Covid-19 pandemic may have put a spanner in her works, but the 11-year-old Lamia Tariq Malallah is now back on her feet and she hopes to earn a slice of gymnastics glory.
Lamia, the only Emirati rhythmic gymnast in the UAE, is brimming with confidence ahead of the Besiktas Cup JK Cup in Istanbul (July 1-3). The premier competition in Turkey will be Lamia’s first international event since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.
Armed with the support from the General Authority of Sports, Lamia will represent the UAE in the Turkish tournament as the first national-level gymnast.
“I am excited and I am working hard. I always try to do my best and I always try to be on the podium,” Lamia told the Khaleej Times, a day before flying out to Turkey.
Lamia’s meteoric rise since making her gymnastics debut as a five-year-old hit the headlines in the UAE, but her journey came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic.
“It was very difficult for me. I had to train at home, we have this small room where I used to train. It was really hard,” she recalled.
“I didn’t have a lot of space to do my routines. When I finally came back to the hall (after the Covid restrictions were lifted), it was really difficult. I couldn’t do jumps, I couldn’t remember my routines. It took me six months to regain my rhythm.”
Lamia, who had won several international gold medals before the pandemic turned her world upside down, finished second and third in her apparatus on her return to competitive gymnastics at the Stryx Cup in May.
“I was not proud of myself. It was my first competition after two or maybe three years. Now I am pushing myself to do better in the Turkey competition,” she said.
Lamia, who was inspired to take up gymnastics after watching Russia’s Margarita Mamun win the 2016 Olympic gold, credits her mother, Malak Alfarsi, for her success as a young gymnast.
“When I first started to train, it was really hard, they (coaches) stretched me a lot. I had nightmares every single day, I would scream in the night and would tell my mother that I would not want to do it anymore. But she inspired me to do better,” said Lamia who has set her sights on the 2026 Youth Olympic gold medal.
Malak Alfarsi, her mother, says the family will leave no stone unturned to see Lamia reach the gymnastics peak.
“We are also hoping for continued support from the General Authority of Sports and UAE National Olympic Committee, so Lamia gets to achieve her dreams and gets to represent her country on global platforms,” Alfarsi said.
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