Meet Amro Marzouq Hassan Al Hamad, a 32 year old Qatari professional racer and free diver as well as a Site Reliability Engineer at Qatar Shell, who tells Marhaba of the adventure of being a racer and free diver in Qatar.
‘Motorsports in general are a very expensive sport,’ said Amro. ‘Being a race car driver in Qatar has lots of pros, cons and challenges…we lack the financial support whether from the federation or sponsors. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a very expensive sport and I am at a level now where it’s impossible to self support my progress. The challenge I would say is that most off the championships we take part in are away from home so during the season, I need to fly out nearly every weekend whether to race or test various circuits in the region. To try to find the balance between this, my work and family is quiet hard sometimes.’
According to Amro, freediving is part of Qatar’s history and tradition. ‘Freediving has been sculpted onto the Qatari DNA for ages. It was our ancestors’ way of providing food to their families through pearl collection. Most of the people who join our courses join to improve their downtime and have better chances of catching fish. The sport itself is not new but what we got to understand about the human body’s reactions, its anatomy and the development of knowledge we have today has of course boosted it, he said. Comparing freediving to spear fishing, he added, ‘Freediving and spear fishing are so in demand nowadays in Qatar. The joy of hunting and the fact it’s a sport makes it one of the most sought activities in Qatar at the moment, especially since we have rich marine life with loads of different species of delicious fish swimming in our seas. There is a sense of pride in spear fishing as well in providing food for your family and loved ones. Some see spear fishing as a barbarian killing sport, but on the contrary spear fishing is the noblest way of catching fish through selectivity and choice. We don’t shoot small or non edible fish because they simply have no nutritional value; we choose what we shoot, added to that we are only holding one breath of air which limits our time underwater so I do believe it’s fair for the fish as well!’
Freediving is a form of underwater diving that relies on a diver’s ability to hold his or her breath until resurfacing rather than on the use of a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear. Examples include breath-hold spear fishing, free dive photography, recreational breath-hold diving, apnea competitions, freediving short sections of underwater passages when caving, and to some degree, snorkeling.
Both racing and freediving are known to be dangerous sports – in fact, life threatening. However, Amro doesn’t think so. ‘I don’t see freediving or motorsports as dangerous at all, if practised within their relative controlled conditions – and this is where training and knowledge kick in. For example, while freediving, the worst two things that could happen are LMCs (Loss of Motor Control) and black outs. Both can be dealt with in the presence of a trained buddy divers without any side effects. When untrained divers go free dive by themselves in the presence of a buddy trained free diver with them they do increase the ceiling of danger in such a wonderful sport. Motorsports as well are practised in controlled conditions in safety prepped cars and proper clothing. All these factors encourage me to push my limits to the max knowing even if I lose control I will still have other layers of safety for protection. The same thing goes with free diving, the fact that I know I have a trained buddy present makes my dives worry free and hence more time underwater and more relaxed dives,’ he said. Of course, there have been a few incidents where a person, whether an amateur or professional have died. In a rare incident, in October 2002, Champion free diver Audrey Mestre dove 561 feet to try to break a world record but the 28 year old French woman blacked out and died when she took a plunge in the Dominican Republic.
With regard to motorsports, specifically racing, there are many who have lost their lives racing on the road. The most recent example is the ‘Fast and the Furious’ actor Paul Walker who died on 30 in November 2013 at the age of 40 in a car accident, where the car crashed at a speed of more than 100mph and burst into flames. Roger Rodas who was driving, was a professional driver but he also died in the crash. He was driving a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT near a charity toy drive at their Valencia, California sports car dealership. Walker and Rodas were the owners of a motor racing team. ‘I realise how dangerous and unfair it is to use the streets as racing grounds,’ said Amro. He admits that he and racers like him are very aware of the dangers of practicing such a sport on roads, whether for themselves or to the other people on the road. Understanding this, Amro leads an internal road safety campaign within Qatar Shell, where he works.
Amro has an innate talent for motorsports. ‘Getting involved in motorsports was just a natural as while I was growing up I used to see my elder brother’s passion for motorsports, and was lured by the rush of adrenaline it offered. My studies in the field of Aircraft Maintenance engineering boosted my life-interest in mechanics, engines and their enhancement. And it simply came a bringing together of things I like,’ he explaines. Amro’s interest in freediving came after.
‘I needed another sport where I can relax and get in touch with my inner self. Another sport where the thrill, the adrenaline rush and the quick reactions are not required,’ he said. Amro is also a certified FII diving instructor. ‘I also enjoy teaching others, as the joy of seeing my students improve through the period of the course is priceless. When I did the course, I was thrilled when I managed a dive that lasted for three minutes and to a depth of 20 meters, all on one breath. I wanted to give all my students a similar experience and sense of achievement,’ he said.
After winning the Middle East Radical championship, Amro is now qualified to join the Radical Masters championship in Europe. Amro is now in the search of sponsors. ‘Sponsors will get lots of benefits like fully branding the car and team apparel in their company’s colours and logos as well as having the car displayed at their premises and a lot more options besides, depending on the sponsorship levels,’ he said. Sponsorship packages can be established upon request and vary from a full car and helmet branding to branding on the car’s sides or wing for what is called a Bronze package.
If you’re interested in learning how to freedive, contact Amro directly at 6699 0907 or register at the facility Qatar Sub, in Souq Waqif beside Al Jasra Boutique Hotel. Courses take place on Wednesdays from 5 pm to 9:30 pm for the theory and Thursdays from 6 pm to 9 pm for the pool session and static apnea (confined water). The third and last day of the course is on Friday from 7 am to 11:30 am, or on Saturday depending on the sea and wind conditions. The course costs QR2,000 including books and venue rentals. ‘By the end of the course, participants should be able to hold their breath for three minutes and free dive to 20 meters,’ Amro said. Upon completion of the practical and written tests those who pass will be awarded an FII Level 1 freediving license as well as a certificate signed by Martin Stepanek.
Author: Ola Diab
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