The sunset lights up the roof of Mohammed’s house as he trains with his weights. He has the face of a child but his convictions and determination as a professional athlete make it clear that appearances can be deceiving. At just 19 years old, he has become the first Palestinian to have competed in an Olympic Games as a weight lifter.
Mohammed Hamada lives in the Toffah neighborhood in eastern Gaza and recently participated in the men’s competition of 96Kg weightlifting at Tokyo 2020. At the early age of 8 he began to practice this sport with his brother and coach, who won the silver medal at the Arab Games. Inspired by him, he began training with a clear goal: to be champion of Palestine. “I am a survivor of three wars, I lived my childhood like the rest of the children of Gaza, a childhood sadly full of misery and pain. As an athlete, what sets me apart from the rest is that my brother is my coach, he knows everything about me, he follows my exercises and interests and we are very confident, “says Mohammed.
In 2018, the athlete began his first competitive trips at the professional level. He participated in the West Asian Championships, the Asian Championships and the World Championships in Uzbekistan. In addition, he participated in the six qualification tests worldwide to reach Japan, where the Tokyo Olympics. Mohammed has become the youngest Palestinian player to twice participate in international competitions in the discipline of weight lifting and to raise the Palestinian flag in international forums.
“During the Olympics I was the youngest competitor in the 96Kg category. My goal was to set a new record. I did my best and got the 13th place. As soon as I got back to Gaza, I started to work hard to prepare well for the next ones. Games in Paris 2024 “.
As a Palestinian and an athlete, he faces numerous difficulties that could cause him to abandon his passion and way of life. “The performance of sports equipment in Gaza clubs is very worn. Leaving the area to compete at a professional level, and moving freely between the Erez or Rafah crossings, is very complicated due to the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip for 14 years ”.
His family and siblings are his main supports and encourage him in his goal of becoming a champion, “they provide me with everything I need to continue in this passion.” The effort and training it requires are nothing more than a sacrifice added to the already extremely difficult situation and context in which you live.
The tensions in Gaza do not see an end. Recently have been carried out demonstrations on the perimeter fence between Gaza and Israel where the mobilized demanded the end of the blockade by Israel. The demonstrations led to violent clashes that injured 40 Palestinians, including a child under the age of 13 with a gunshot to the head who sadly passed away this week.
The coastal enclave harbors the uncertainty of all and all its inhabitants, including elite athletes like Mohammed who had to schedule his departure in time to evade any event or inconvenience that would leave him out of the competition. “I traveled ahead of the scheduled date to Tokyo to avoid any emergencies that might arise at the crossings.”
“It is a wonderful sport and one that I am passionate about. I stopped studying after finishing high school due to the demands of sports camps and training. It was the only way to get to participate in Arab and international championships, “he says. Still, he claims that his dream is to complete university studies focused on sports science, something that, according to account, will help him to be more professional.
Wars and violence do not stop you because your persistence is inspired by more than just winning a medal, in gaining freedom and recognition for his people.