Dubai: Mohammad Al Balooshi, the UAE’s top motocross and desert rally rider, is totally geared for a full onslaught on the international stage as soon as normalcy returns.
Al Balooshi, who will turn 41 in the second half of September, is among the most experienced exponents of motocross after competing on the international stage since more than two decades now.
A winner of the Arabic Motocross Championship for five consecutive years between 2009 and 2013, Al Balooshi opened the 2020 season with a fourth appearance on his KTM 450 bike at the annual Dakar Rally that was held in the familiar surroundings of Saudi Arabia in January.
The coronavirus pandemic then closed down all activity across the globe - forcing the UAE rider behind closed doors for more than three months till he slowly reappeared with regular practice sessions in the desert areas of the UAE. “I am normally not a person who enjoys social life outside. But at the same time I love being on my bike. So the initial few weeks were tough on me as I had to keep away from something that I loved so dearly,” Al Balooshi told Gulf News.
“I had to look at the positives during this period as I realised all we needed was a change in the frame of mind. In fact, during the lockdown I started live push-up and squat challenge sessions on Instagram live and I had the company of some followers who were helping me average 250 push-ups and squats on a daily basis. The idea in the end was that we could all stay busy every single day while having some sort of challenge before us during these times indoors,” he added.
“I knew that if I had a fresh daily target then that would help me and the others to stay focused and positive and in a better frame of mind. Honestly, as a sportsperson, I don’t get this sort of time and I really made good use of it to refocus and re-arm myself for possible challenges ahead,” he stressed.
Although starting motocross at a comparatively late age of 20, Al Balooshi showed a lot of extra determination while putting in tough training sessions and enter his first competitive race three years later. 2009 proved to be his year as he took his first step of riding alongside some of the top riders in the world.
In 2010, Al Balooshi was crowned Arab champion for the second year - leading him into Red Bull’s ‘Under My Wings’ project in the UAE that saw the champion train seven young riders for the first time in a 24-hour training session in the desert.
I don’t want to peak out as yet because I don’t know if the racing calendar will be back this year or it will be in 2021. I am just keeping healthy and keeping my feet there, but I am not going crazy with my fitness. I don’t want to be burnt out if we are only going to be racing in January
In 2012, he became the first emirati to participate in the motocross section of the Dakar Rally and despite failing to finish the event due to an injury sustained on the 10th stage of the gruelling event, Al Balooshi learnt a lot from that experience.
“Since the easing of restrictions, I have been back to my normal life. But, I continue keeping social distance while working on my fitness levels, just in case a fresh racing calendar is announced,” Al Balooshi said.
Two years back, the UAE rider returned to the Dakar Rally for a second time while completing the race in a respectable 32nd place in the Bike class. Later that year, Al Balooshi lifted the FIM Baja’s World Cup making him the first Arab rider to win a FIM title in off-road rallies.
Last season, Al Balooshi once again completed the Dakar Rally and improved to 25th overall during the event’s foray into South American territory.
With a fresh racing calendar yet to be announced, Al Balooshi is slowly getting back into shape. “I have been riding three days a week, while also working out on my fitness,” he said.
“I don’t want to peak out as yet because I don’t know if the racing calendar will be back this year or it will be in 2021. I am just keeping healthy and keeping my feet there, but I am not going crazy with my fitness. I don’t want to be burnt out if we are only going to be racing in January,” he added.
“I am just keeping it nice. Right now, I am at 70 or 75 per cent from my peak form. Once the calendar is announced, then I know I can put the hammer down and go after it and achieve peak form,” Al Balooshi insisted.