Second in line is 23-year-old computer engineer, tennis player, duathlete and aspiring Olympic fencer Asma Al Janahi. Aside from her goals to compete at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, the Co-founder of UAE girls cycling group also aims to inspire young Emirati women to lead a healthy lifestyle through sports.
How did you discover your passion for fencing?
I discovered fencing by chance, but it quickly turned into a passion. I was invited to try out a fencing class once and I was immediately hooked. It didn’t take long before I found myself at the fencing academy two to three times a week, trying to learn more about the sport and it all just blossomed from there. As I learned more, I got addicted to the spirit exuded from the sport. It’s a competitive game that is based on patience and respect, challenging a person both mentally and physically.
What is your favorite thing about fencing?
My favorite thing about fencing is the nobility that is involved in the sport. Fencing is all about good manners and respect between opponents. Aside from the physical aspect, there is also a strong mental component involved within the sport. To me fencing is more than just a fun activity; it’s also a mental game that requires the body and mind to work in harmony - it’s like a game of physical chess.
What is the most challenging thing about fencing?
Fencing is a sport without boundaries. Every opponent is different and you need to continuously switch up your game. The challenge is that every match is a wild card, which requires you to be a different person in order to adapt to your opponents’ way of playing and vice versa.
What would you say are the main challenges you have faced as a female Emirati athlete?
Being an Emirati girl in sports definitely has its fair share of challenges. First of all the stigma of being an Emirati woman in a mixed sporting environment was an obstacle I had to overcome. Appearing in the media was another issue; seeing a woman active in sports and without an abaya is not the norm. But of course, I didn’t let these excuses get in the way. You just need to know that you will always receive criticism, and so in order to persevere through them you need to be strong and stubborn – focus on the goal, and keep moving forward.
What has been your proudest moment?
An achievement that I’m very proud of was when I received the title of “Best Fencer” within the academy in the adult age category. It was also a very honorable moment to be nominated as an MK Fencing Academy Ambassador for two years in a row.
Aside from representing my fencing academy, I also won two Bronze Medals in 2015. Once when I competed in the UAE Fencing Federation Ramadan teams epee tournament, and the second during an inter-academy epee fencing tournament.
How has fencing impacted you as an individual?
Fencing has had a very positive impact on me in both my athletic and personal developments. Through the sport I learned to be patient and respectful of everyone regardless of their differences, which is a positive trait that has seeped into my personality.
What is your training schedule like?
A regular training schedule takes about 3 and half-hours of my day. It starts off with an hour of one-on-one technique training with the coach, followed by some warm up exercises, endurance drills and target work before finishing off with some friendly competition on the fencing ground.
When did you start aiming to compete in the Olympics?
I’ve always been a sporty person, even as a child and I think it’s every athlete’s dream to be able to compete in the Olympics. When I first discovered that fencing was an Olympic sport, I immediately knew that qualifying for the Olympics is something I wanted to work towards, not only for myself but to also bring pride to the nation. Right now I am training to be part of Tokyo 2020 and I’m determined to get there.
What’s your advice to those who aim for the Olympics?
Just keep going forward. As long as you are not violating any cultural boundaries, keep going. It’s going to be scary and challenging at first. There will be times where you get cold feet and when you do, I suggest asking yourself - “why not?” – then just keep on going forward.