Jerusalem24– On 9 May 2022, 20-year-old Mohamed Hamada from Gaza City proudly represented Palestine at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Junior World Championship in Heraklion, Greece. Under the leadership and coaching of his brother Hussam Hamada (also a Palestinian weightlifting champion), members of the Palestine weightlifting team, and members of the Gaza Sports Club, Mohammad secured Palestine’s very first gold medal in weightlifting.
Mohammad talks to Jerusalem24 about his achievement and the journey that preceded it, first and foremost expressing his happiness and gratitude: “This was a great moment for me, full of pride and happiness: a Palestinian winning a gold medal in a world championship. “
Olympian Hamada Mohammed from Palestine wins the Gold medal in Snatch during the Men 102KG A Group session! Check out his 168KG Snatch! 🇵🇸🥇 pic.twitter.com/NIERL1Jur4
— IWF (@iwfnet) May 9, 2022
“A soldier following the coaches’ orders“
Mohammad tells us he started playing and training at 8 years old. Preparing for the world championship itself took almost four years.
The Olympic Committee helped by organizing training camps for him in different countries, including the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia at the beginning of the year. Mohammad was part of a strict training program, along with competitors from around the world. Mohammad explains, “It helped me evolve and be better. I was also able to engage with big and professional competitors, from Russia and other Arab countries.”
Hussam Hamada, as Mohammad’s brother and coach, took care of the organizing and scheduling, preparing his brother’s training routine with the help of a professional nutritionist provided by the training camp, and making sure that Mohammad’s whole stay and time was as organized and as efficient as possible.
Mohammad says one of the challenges he faced was training before the championship throughout the month of Ramadan. He was however able to keep fasting with a slight change in his training schedule. “My faith was important to me and one of the important things that kept me going with a strong mindset to win this championship,” he says.
Mohammad also says that training alongside accomplished weightlifters such as the competitors from Armenia and Russia was “a great and enriching experience to participate in, I was able to gain new experiences and techniques.”
“We were aiming and working towards winning a gold medal in this championship, that was our goal, not just a wish, but what we worked hard to make happen.”
“It was this or death“
Mohammad recounts how he started his first snatch ahead of his competitors with one extra kilogram, starting at 160kg. Eventually Mohammad was left with one last competitor from Uzbekistan, as they both started going back and forth to see who could sign on for the higher weight. Both of them ended up signing on 168kg – 8kg more than Mohammad’s starting number. “It was not expected to happen because an 8kg increase from your original starting number is unusual in this game – and very hard to achieve,” Mohammad explains. “[…] I decided I would do everything in my power to make this lift. That it was this or death.”
“I entered the stage ready to lift 168kg, confident and believing in my ability to make it happen – and on my way to the stage, my brother and captain said a sentence to me that made all the difference: ‘Palestine is waiting for you, Mohammad!’”
Mohammad assures us his journey has just started. He plans to keep on training, and is currently participating in a training camp in Gaza City in preparation for Asia’s championship in Uzbekistan in July.
But Mohammad keeps aiming high: the brothers are already preparing and training for the Olympics, ready to be the first Palestinians to win an Olympic medal.