Lebanese-American weightlifter Mahassen Hala Fattouh has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, becoming the first woman to ever represent Lebanon in Olympic weightlifting.
Fattouh’s qualification for the Olympics, a remarkable achievement in itself, comes nearly 7 years after she became the first Lebanese woman to compete in an international weightlifting competition.
That was in 2014 when she competed as part of the Lebanese National Team in the International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) World Weightlifting Championships, in Kazakhstan.
The event also marked Fattouh’s first participation in an elite-level competition.
Mahassen Hala Fattouh, who lives in South Carolina, USA, scored her first Olympic qualification points at the IWF World Championship held in Houston, Texas in 2015.
In the Women’s Weightlifting competition at the XVIII Mediterranean Games held three years later in Spain, she won the first-ever international medal for Lebanon in the category.
Chasing the Dream
From there, she went on to take home more medals at several international championships, most notably the 2019 Arab Championship in Jordan, where she earned 3 gold medals and became the first female Arab Champion while representing Lebanon.
Still the only woman to represent Lebanon internationally in weightlifting so far (Nadine Kassem and Alexa Mina will join her in doing so this year), Fattouh had had her eyes set on the Olympics for years.
“It’s official!” the athlete wrote on her Instagram last week, celebrating her qualification. “In 43 days I will become the first female weightlifter in Lebanon’s history to compete at the Olympic Games.”
“The feeling is indescribable,” she told The961.
“It sometimes doesn’t entirely seem real and it is such a huge honor to be able to represent Team Lebanon, and Lebanese women everywhere, at the Olympic Games. There is definitely a different feel now when I walk into the gym.”
Once done competing at the Olympics, the athlete, who takes pride in her Lebanese roots, aspires to create new programs for a sustainable future for women in sports in Lebanon, according to her website.
“I’d like to encourage all women to get involved in sport, at any age. Weightlifting is very inclusive with divisions that allow for competition from the time you are a young child to when you are 100,” Fattouh said.
Her message to the Lebanese diaspora: “We all have a responsibility to invest in Lebanon’s future. It can be through sport, visiting, business or voting. We can all do our part.”
In the meantime, she continues to train for the big competition ahead.
This year’s Olympic weightlifting competitions will start on July 24th and continue until August 4, in Tokyo, Japan.