In 2021 the Qatari shooting team participated in ISSF World Cup that was held in New Delhi, India. The competitions were challenging, but the national team was able to win the bronze medal in skeet thanks to the duo, Reem Ghanem Al Sharshani, and Rashed Saleh. In this interview, we talk to Reem Ghanem Al Sharshani. She tells us about her love for sports and her journey as a shooter. So, who is Reem Ghanem Al Sharshani?
I like to introduce myself as an avid lover of sports, something that I have been passionate about since I was a child. When I was very young, I loved exploring different sports and joined many teams, until I found the one that fits me. This is why I always say that playing sports molded me into the person I am today. I believe that people acquire different characteristics based on the sport they play. For example, through shooting, I have learned how to be calm, control my reactions, and how to handle mental pressure. Shotgun tournaments consist of both individual and team competitions where a team will have three men or women. A mixed team (a man and a woman) plays in the final round of the tournament and winning depends on the sum of the scores of the two players. Such collaboration and joint efforts teach us teamwork. Another example is padel which taught me patience. In general, I would say that sports played a big role in my life, in teaching me the spirit of competition and encouraging me to work harder to accomplish my goals. Sports was, and is still, an integral part of my life. Alhamdulillah, I was able to pursue sports professionally and turn my passion into a career. And after trying so many sports, I found that shooting is the sport that suits me the most. I am a skeet shooter for Qatar’s national team. I have been a skeet shooter for ten years, and during those years, I was able to win many tournaments, and of my many achievements, winning a bronze medal in Shotgun World Cup 2021, which was held in India, is the dearest to my heart.
Furthermore, other than being a sportsperson, I graduated from Qatar University with a bachelor’s in Human Nutrition. Currently, I am an intern at the Dietetics Department at Hamad Medical Corporation. I was hoping to study medicine but decided to pursue nutrition instead because studying medicine will affect my career as a sportsperson. I receive many comments from people telling me that shooting is only a hobby and that I will stop practicing it once I get married or when I get a job. Such comments come from people who view sports as a second-class path that a person follows, but for me, I cannot imagine my life without it. Ultimately, I chose to pursue Nutrition because as a sportsperson, I have some background knowledge in nutrition, which I hoped will help me in my studies. Another reason is that Nutrition is similar to medicine in many ways but pursuing Nutrition will give me some leisure time to also be a sportsperson.
You mentioned that you enjoy many sports, what made you decide to pursue shooting specifically?
My journey started when I was still a student in school. I used to participate in the Olympic Sports Day for schools and I took part in playing many sports such as football. However, the turning point in my life was in 2006, when Qatar hosted the Asian Games. As the country was preparing to host the event, they decorated the towers in Doha with photos of different players. At that time, I was only twelve years old, and those pictures had a big impact on me; they inspired me to become a great player myself. What I did not decide on was the sport that I would like to pursue, but I guessed it would be a group sport.
The 2006 Asian games had a big impact on how our society views sports, and as a result, my mother enrolled me in a program by Aspire. The program consisted of various sports and we would try a new one every two weeks. The program gave me the opportunity to try many sports and it led me to play judo for three years. However, I stopped practicing judo as it can be a dangerous sport and its injuries can harm the spine. I did find it an exciting and challenging sport, but as soon as I got injured while playing judo, my mother asked me to stop playing it.
After that, I joined the shooting team, which was also one of the sports I got to try in the program offered by Aspire. There are many types of shooting, such as archery with a bow and arrow and shooting with a shotgun. I remember that as soon as I entered the field, I wanted to try shooting, but I was told that it was available for men only, however, I was able to try archery. Later, I was chosen to join the shooting with the rifle team. I joined the team, but I went through phases of doubt as I did not want to stay in it. For me, it was only a hobby, because I did not like it much, but everyone was encouraging me because I was talented. When I became fourteen, I made up my mind and left the team. I left it mainly because, for me, it was a quiet activity and I prefer sports with action. The day I announced that I was leaving the team, the President of the Qatar Shooting and Archery Association allowed me to try shooting with a shotgun. As soon as I held the gun in my hand, I felt a connection to it, and I found in it the action that I have been looking for. Shooting with a shotgun is practiced outdoors and the players must face whatever the weather throws at them and face conditions that are beyond their control, which excited me, and it is a highly competitive sport. And to be honest, in international competitions, we faced players who behaved unprofessionally towards us. For example, they would push us or shout out provocative words to deter our concentration during the game. This was challenging for us because shooting requires absolute control and concentration.
How do you prepare yourself for the mental pressure that a sports player might face?
One of the first things we were taught was how to handle mental pressures during the game, which is something that will vary depending on the player. Also, because the difficulties and challenges that each player faces on daily bases will be different too, so there isn’t a “one size fits all” way of dealing with pressure. Mental preparation focuses on equipping the player and preparing them for what might happen on the field. The focus of our training was indeed on practicing shooting, but we would also discuss possible scenarios that might happen during the game. However, we all knew that we would experience the real thing once we are in the game. Also, I have noticed that participating in more competitions had greatly improved my performance. Once we started participating in more competitions, like two or three games per month, I saw a significant improvement in my skills. Also, every tournament has a different effect on the player, so although I have been playing for ten years now, I still experience different emotions in every tournament.
How did you feel when you won the bronze medal in the World Cup?
It was my colleague, Rashed Saleh, and I who qualified for the finals. And the moment we won; I was so focused on the game that I did not realize that we won. I only understood that once I saw people congratulating our coach and saw how happy the audience was. It was a surreal moment, but as soon as I realized that we won, it turned into a unique moment. It is hard to describe what I felt at that moment because I do not have the words that will do it justice. I even remember that it was raining that day, so basically, everything was just magical. Alhamdulillah, I have many other achievements participating in Arab and Asian level tournaments, and even internationally. For example, I played in the Military World Games that was held in Wuhan in 2019. That was a tough game, but I managed to score fifth internationally, which was a new record for me. Although I did not win any medals in that tournament, everyone was very happy and proud of what we have achieved, which I did not expect. People’s appreciation is what I always remember from that tournament.
Have you faced any challenges in your journey?
I faced some challenges in balancing my studies and my career, which affected me mentally. My journey as a professional player started when I was in high school. Once I finished high school, I joined Qatar University. However, with time, I learned how to find a balance between my studies and sports. If I had to travel for tournaments, I would still make time to study, for example, I would study during my flights. My coach and the Association were very supportive of my studies, but in the end, I learned how to make time for everything. When you are passionate about something you will make time for it regardless of the challenges. Some might think that when we travel for tournaments, it is a fun experience, but that is not true, because we feel pressured due to the competitions. And for me, I used my free time during traveling for tournaments to study. In addition to all the challenges that I have mentioned before, playing the sport itself might end up being more challenging depending on the country hosting the event. In 2019, we had a tournament in Finland, and the weather was so bad as it was constantly raining and windy. Usually, if there is extreme weather, the competition gets postponed to a later time but in this case, we had to compete. I have also faced some social pressure but playing sports have contributed to easing those pressures. Sometimes, I get comments from people who are surprised that I am a professional shooter, as some people view it as a sport meant for men. For me, those comments are quite amusing.
What is your advice for women in Qatar?
Try different sports. Sports are much bigger than just going to the gym. Especially since the state provides the necessary sports facilities. Go and explore the world because talent cannot be improved without effort and hard work.
Published on 23/ 10/ 2022
- All Pictures were provided to us by the interviewee, unless stated otherwise.
- Interview was edited to improve clarity and readability.