London: His passion is shooting and his relaxation comes from rallying.
A day after winning bronze in the men’s skeet shooting at the Royal Artillery Barracks — Qatar’s only Olympic medal at the 2012 Games so far — Nasser Al Attiyah is deliberating his next move in sport.
“This has been such a fantastic day for me,” the 41-year-old Al Attiyah beamed as he came from a tense shoot-off that saw Valeriy Shomin, the 2010 world champion from Russia, missing on the sixth clay.
“I’ve waited for this moment for the past 20 years. I’ve done everything, but I did not have an Olympic medal. This is definitely a start in the true sense for me,” he said, saying the feeling is yet to sink in.
After an opening day’s score of 72 out of a possible 75, Al Attiyah — along with Sweden’s Stefan Nilsson and Anders Golding of Denmark — was breathing down the neck of leader and eventual gold medallist Vincent Hancock of the US. The Qatari consolidated his position for the six-man final with rounds of 24 and 25 for a total of 121, just enough to break Hancock’s Olympic Record which, ironically the American went on to improve to 123 at the end of his fifth round.
Hancock, a gold medallist in Beijing four years back, was simply unassailable with a final perfect round to take the top spot with a total of 148. Golding, who had one miss on the 17th target, nestled into second for the silver, leaving Al Attiyah and Shomin to battle it out for bronze.
Only Al Attiyah — flagbearer for Qatar in Beijing — knew what sort of emotions he was going through during those final moments after missing out on a medal on at least one occasion — when he lost a bronze shoot-off to Cuba’s Juan Miguel Rodriguez in Athens 2004.
“Oh yes, Athens did cross my mind at that moment, but I simply put the thought aside. Instead, I told myself that I needed to win the bronze and the best way I could do this was to believe in myself,” Al Attiyah related.
Al Attiyah became the third Olympic medallist in Qatar after Mohammad Sulaiman’s bronze in the 1,500m run in 1992 Barcelona and weightlifter Saeed Saif Assad’s third place in weightlifting at Sydney 2000. “Qatar has given me everything I have. It was time that I gave back something to my country,” Al Attiyah said.
However, if shooting is his passion then rallying helps Al Attiyah relax. In December, Al Attiyah won the Dubai International Rally to be crowned the Middle East Rally Champion for the seventh time. His bigger achievement is on the international stage, however, was when he became the first Arab driver to win the gruesome Dakar Rally last year.
“There is no secret really, but just hard work all the time,” Al Attiyah said. “To me sport is like school. If you don’t do well in your exams, then you are going to fail. I’ve spent 20 years in shooting and rallying at a very high level and so far I have managed to do justice to both,” he added.