Getting children interested in sport and athletics in an age of emails, computers, COD, Football Manager and more is not an easy task. But there is one lady determined to sort this out and make sure that the youth in Qatar is either staying healthy or getting active.
Liz McColgan-Nuttall is a former world champion and Olympic silver medallist, now resident in Doha, and we caught up with the former professional athlete and asked her why she is so passionate about getting Doha’s future on track to getting in shape, setting up her own athletics club and running classes. Currently, over 30 children have signed up for regular training and she has plans for this to expand.
Why did you establish an athletics club?
I established a club here in Doha as there were no opportunities for the international kids and workers’ kids to participate in athletics. Athletics is the basic of all sports, so we try to get kids fit for sports as well as create an elite athletics club.
What are the main objectives of the club?
It’s not just about finding the sports stars of tomorrow. The main objective is to get children in Doha active and fit, and to enjoy exercise as a daily activity. The health benefits are widely known now and I want to help the next generation remain active.
Is sports participation a problem in Qatar?
There are very few opportunities for girls to compete in athletics here in Doha to be honest. There is a boys’ club system set up but it is very restrictive. Most children just do a six-week block, being given the basics through the school PE curriculum, which is not specific enough.
Will the athletics championships coming in 2019 bring about a positive contribution to fitness and athletics in the city?
With the athletics coming to Doha in 2019, I see a big, positive move for the boys’ programme, but not so much for the girls. I hope I am proved wrong and that Qatar fields a female athletics team for 2019 and more girls get involved and active in sport and athletics from now on.
Why is athletics particularly good for exercise?
It’s good for children to be involved with the club to get fit and active. It also has a good social connection for the children, so it is much more than just being about getting fit. Athletics is important for all sports as you learn agility, improve co-ordination and concentration, and not to mention the great health benefits. Furthermore, if you are a good athlete, you get competition opportunities as well.
What facilities are you using?
We have four facilities that we use. We are based at Al Saad running track, but during the hot months we are at the Aspire Academy indoor facility, and we also run at Aspire Park, depending on the session. Gym work is held at Doha College.
What are the future plans for the club?
I’m passionate about reaching out throughout Qatar and starting more athletics clubs. The plans for the future are to open two more clubs in Doha – one in Al Khor and one in Dukhan.
The Doha Athletics Club for children aged nine and older meet at Aspire Zone every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 3.30pm-5.15pm, with mini athletics for six to nine-year-olds also at Aspire Zone every Tuesday & Thursday 3pm-4pm. For more information, email Lizrun@aol.com or call (6605 1263).
Some of Liz McColgan’s sporting achievements
• 10,000 metres World champion 1990
• 10,000 metres Olympic silver medallist 1988
• 10,000 metres double Commonwealth Games gold medallist 1986 & 1990
• 3,000 metres Commonwealth Games bronze medallist 1990
• 3,000 metres World indoor silver medallist 1987
• World half marathon champion 1987
• London Marathon winner 1997
• New York Marathon winner 1991
• Tokyo Marathon winner 1992