Monday, December 10, 2018 | ePaper

In eastern Iraq, a small town builds weightlifting champions

  • Print
AFP, Iraq :
While some towns in Iraq are known for producing oil or textiles, Badra boasts its own special conveyer belt - churning out weightlifting champions.
In cafes along the main road dissecting the small town, 10 kilometres (six miles) from the border with Iran, chatter rarely veers far from the successes of local lifters.
In the old days, "men measured their performance by lifting cast iron, often spare parts of cars," said Khudeir Basha, who grew up nearby and became coach of the national weightlifting team.
"In 1974, the youth of Badra decided to take part in the Iraqi championships," the bespectacled coach recalled, referring to himself and his friends.
The hopefuls headed south to Diwaniya province, where they swept up "all the prizes", astonishing fellow competitors who had never heard of Badra.
Since then, he said, weightlifting has been synonymous with the town of 15,000, some 200 km east of Baghdad.
A weightlifting training centre, set up in 1993 in a Badra high school, is still in operation.
The spartan hall echoes with shouts of encouragement by Basha, who sets an example by keeping himself in peak condition.
Heavy lifter Salwan Jassim Abbood, who is in the 105 kilogramme category, returned from the Asian weightlifting championships in Turkmenistan last year with a silver medal.
The new generation wants to "continue what Badra has launched in the weightlifting field", the thick-set athlete said.
With seemingly little effort, Abbood propelled a barbell from the floor to far above his head, the bar ends sagging slightly under heavy discs.
In 2016, the 26-year-old took part in the Olympic Games in Brazil. Ten years previously, his brother Mohammad won silver at a contest in Qatar.
"It's up to us and the coaches to keep going so Badra remains a factory for champion weightlifters," said Abbood, who will represent Iraq at the Asian Games in Indonesia this summer.
- 'Capital of weightlifting' -
Lifters here are acutely aware that they are upholding a tradition.
Another medal winner, 28-year-old Ahmed Faruq, said he was "proud to have made this small town Iraq's capital of weightlifting", noted for its victories in Asian and Arab competitions.
"Big names have been here and we need to protect that identity," he said.
But despite those successes, the gym is in poor shape.
Paint peeled from the pale green walls, a solitary fan recycled warm air and the upholstery on the leg press had worn away, disgorging yellow foam as if from a putrid wound.
Iraq's sports authorities are losing interest in Badra and the weightlifting club, coach Basha lamented.
The small management team has resorted to drumming up its own income to keep things ticking over.
"Every year, the club generates 30 million dinars ($25,000, just over 20,000 euros) by renting out shops it bought," says Mohammad Kazem, a 55-year-old former athlete, now manager of the weightlifting club.
And while that isn't a lot, Kazem said he committed to training the next generation of lifters for free.

More News For this Category

England, Scotland drawn alongside Japan in same women's World Cup group

AFP, France :England and Scotland will meet each other in their opening game at the 2019 women's World Cup in France after being placed in the same group at Saturday's

Neville excited by Japan test at women's World Cup

England manager Phil Neville admitted that a "great generation" of Japan players will pose a major threat to his team at the 2019 women's World Cup after Saturday's draw for

Raheem accuses newspapers of fuelling racism

AFP, London :Raheem Sterling has accused British newspapers of helping to "fuel racism" with the way they portray young black footballers after he suffered alleged abuse during Manchester City's defeat

Japan's Kihira upsets Oly champ Zagitova to win Grand Prix gold

Japan's Kihira upsets Oly champ Zagitova to win Grand Prix gold

Japan's rising star Rika Kihira won the battle of the 16-year olds, upsetting reigning Olympic champ Alina Zagitova to claim ladies' gold at the ISU Grand Prix Figure Skating Final

Perth stretch unbeaten run to seven, stay top of A-League

Perth Glory maintained their unbeaten start to the A-League season with a hard-fought 1-0 win against Melbourne City in weekend action, as Sydney FC suffered a shock home defeat.Socceroos attacker

Thousands of Boca and River fans set for Copa final in Spain

AP, Madrid :Hundreds of Boca Juniors fans gathered outside their team's hotel in Madrid on Saturday, chanting "It doesn't matter where you play, we will always follow you."A few hours

Celtics dominate lowly Bulls for franchise record 56-point win

AFP, Los Angeles :Jaylen Brown came off the bench to score 23 points as the Boston Celtics recorded the biggest margin of victory in franchise history with a 133-77 demolition

Morgan named US women's footballer of the year

Alex Morgan, whose 18 goals in 19 matches helped the United States qualify to defend their women's World Cup title, was named US female footballer of the year on Friday.

BD U-15 boys team touchdown Thailand safely

The Bangladesh U-15 national football team touched down in Bangkok on Saturday to take part in the Bangladesh Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) friendly tournament scheduled to be held

Noted sports organizer Farida Akter Begum inaugurating the Walton 3rd Inter-College Women's Rugby             Competition by releasing the balloons as the chief guest at the Paltan Maidan on Saturday.

Noted sports organizer Farida Akter Begum inaugurating the Walton 3rd Inter-College Women's Rugby Competition by releasing the balloons as the chief guest at the Paltan Maidan on Saturday.