Posted on January 11, 2018

Aspire Academy hosted four-time Olympic champion and six-time World champion Mo Farah, fellow British long-distance runner Chris Thompson, four-time Olympian Abdihakem Abdirahman from the USA, and Hendrik Pfeiffer from Germany on Thursday.

The athletes, who are in Doha to take part in the Ooredoo Doha Marathon 2018 apart of the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA)’s initiative to promote Qatar as a top destination for sports and tourism, met with the young Aspire Academy athletes, spoke to them about their careers in sport and engaged them in warm-up exercises and a short training session, held on the Aspire outdoor athletics track. Speaking in an interview on the sidelines of the visit, Mo Farah noted: “The kids see us winning on TV, but they don’t see what it takes and what you have gone through to get to the top. That’s why I appreciate opportunities like this when you can share experiences with young athletes.”

Farah’s told the young athletes that the keys to his own success include: “Hard work, commitment and your belief in yourself.” He added: “I adopted an attitude that encouraged me not only to be better but be the best. I resolved to push myself to my highest potential and aimed to be more than just the British champion or a Europe champion but a world champion. Nothing in life gets given to you, you always have to work for it.” When asked about the importance of rivalry in encouraging motivation, Chris Thompson responded: “I grew up with Mo Farah, we trained a lot together, we constantly battled each other. One time I was faster, the next time he was. Friendly competition and rivalry is definitely a good stimulus and can bring out the best in you and it definitely helped Mo and I get better when we were young.”

Athletes hold training session 2 [].jpg

Commenting on the Academy’s student-athletes, Thompson said: “I’m very impressed, they are enthusiastic young lads with clearly a lot of talent. They have huge opportunities here and there is no doubt that they are on a pathway to become successful athletes.” Meanwhile, praising the role of coaches in athlete development, Abdihakem Abdirahman said: “I have been with my coach for 25 years. He showed me the path and what I had to do in the different stages of my career to be successful. It’s very important to surround yourself with people that care about you.”

Abdihakem who at 41 years of age is still competing at the top in marathons, extolled the student athletes to find passion for their sport and find enjoyment in doing their sporting activity: “When you love your sport and enjoy it you are more likely to put in your all. That combination of passion and effort usually brings success and satisfaction.” Farah agreed, and admitted that he might never have had his great career if his P.E. teacher, Alan Watkinson, had not identified his talent and encouraged him to take up running and join a sports club from a young age. The support of his coaches, he admitted, played a crucial role in his career: “You have to respect your coach, try to understand him, communicate with him and give him the right information. Then he will be able to get the best out of you.”

Athletes hold training session 3 [].jpg

Germany’s runner, Hendrik Pfeiffer said that, like the student athletes, he is still learning from the likes of Farah, Thompson and Abdirahman, saying: “It’s a privilege for me to listen to these top athletes. Even l am still working hard on cultivating the right positive attitude that will drive me to be the best l can be.” Some of Aspire student athletes who attended the training session with the stars are traveling to Iten in Kenya for high altitude training in the coming period, and Pfeiffer, who will also be heading to train there, expressed that he would like to train with them in Kenya if it was possible.

Established in 2004, Aspire Academy has two primary aims. First, to identify and transform talented young athletes with real potential into world-renowned champions who represent Qatar in national teams across a wide range of sports. Second, to promote a sports culture in Qatar and the region. Aspire Academy aims to develop students holistically, providing individuals with a comprehensive academic, social and sporting education. To support student-athletes in fulfilling their promise, there are five major departments at Aspire Academy that specifically look after their development: The Football Department, the Football Performance and Science Department, the Sports Department (non-football), the Sports Science Department, and the Education and Student Care Department.