Monday, April 8, 2024
HomesportAfter historic medal, Palestinian karateka Hala Alqadi wants peace for her homeland

After historic medal, Palestinian karateka Hala Alqadi wants peace for her homeland

Like many athletes in her homeland, Palestine karateka Hala Alqadi does not know what the future holds for her owing to the ongoing conflict between Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and neighbouring Israel in the western enclave of Gaza.

It was not a situation she expected to find herself in, particularly on Oct 5, when she stood on the podium at the Asian Games, smiling as her women’s kumite 68kg bronze medal was placed around her neck.

Her Hangzhou heroics made her Palestine’s first female Asiad medallist and only the second from the state to do so since Munir Abu-Keshek took bronze in men’s boxing more than two decades ago.

But any celebrations, especially in the de facto administrative Palestinian capital of Ramallah in the West Bank where she had trained for 15 years, had to be swiftly cut short.

While the 22-year-old was locked in a fierce battle for the bronze with former Asian Games medallist Chao Jou of Chinese Taipei, her homeland was soon mired in another skirmish of its own.

Just two days after her victory, conflict erupted in Gaza. Following Hamas’ unprecedented Oct 7 attack on Israel which killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and 240 hostages were also taken, the war has also resulted in the deaths of close to 19,000 people, according to Gaza health authorities, from Israeli bombardments.

Alqadi said in a recent interview: “Winning the bronze medal at the Asian Games was one of the happiest days of my life. I was finally able to raise the flag of my country in such a big event, despite the lack of preparation, and the general situation in Palestine.

“Since it was the first medal for Palestine in the Asian Games in more than 20 years and it was won by a female athlete, people were very happy and excited, everyone was posting about it and (congratulating) me, my family, my coach, and our (state of Palestine national Olympic committee).

“However, it didn’t last long since the war started two days after the competition.”

While her bronze medal is a leap forward for Palestinian sports, the conflict has quickly set it a few steps back.

Alqadi, who is still based in Ramallah, said: “I was hoping I would be able to participate in the world championships that took place in Hungary on Oct 24. However, due to the current situation, we weren’t able to participate. It was a great opportunity to raise our voices and spread awareness about what’s happening since sport is a great way to get our voices heard.

“The current situation in Palestine is so terrible for all Palestinians and athletes. Many facilities and establishments have been bombed, all the roads between cities are closed, a lot of athletes and administrators have been murdered in this aggression against my people.”

While the future remains unclear for Alqadi, she is focused on her ultimate goal – to see the Palestinian flag fly high at the world championships and to bring home a gold for her state.

She said: “I remember thinking at the podium (in Hangzhou), that if I’m this happy because I was finally able to raise my flag, how would it feel if I won the gold medal and got the whole audience listening to our anthem? How happy and proud would I feel at that moment? So I’m aiming to live that moment.”

She also wants to spread a message of hope and peace.

“I want to tell all the athletes, especially the young ones, to never lose hope and keep working hard, hoping for a better and peaceful future where we can all achieve our dreams and be great athletes.”

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