After accomplishing several firsts for Lebanon, Mahassen Hala Fattouh (Pavia) is making her country proud once more as the first woman to represent Lebanon in weightlifting at the Olympic Games. Her fans in Lebanon and everywhere else around the region will be rooting for her on August 1 when it’s time to lift that bar in Tokyo. And with her rankings, first in Asia and 12th in the world, there’s a good chance to see her on the podium. Making the moment even more nail-biting is the fact the South Carolina-based Fattouh will be the only representative from the Middle East lifting in the women’s 76kg weight category.
Whatever the outcome, Fattouh, who is half American, hopes her participation continues to set a positive example, inspire and empower Lebanese women, as well as others in the region. Once her competition is over, she looks forward to finding sustainable ways to nurture female sporting talent in Lebanon.
The 31-year-old athlete, who trained in a makeshift gym in her garage and sent videos to her coach during COVID-19, previously spoke to “About Her” about her plans to help hopeful athletes attain their goals. She said her mission was to make it to the Olympic Games and “use that accomplishment and publicity to expand this field for women in Lebanon, and in the Arab world.”
While commenting about her 2014 feat in the interview, Fattouh, who has competed in numerous regional, continental and world championships, including this year’s Asian Weightlifting Championships, added: “I received many messages of support through Facebook and Instagram, and questions from Lebanese women all over the world who are interested in sports. Representing Lebanon made me aware of the impact one woman can have by pursuing her goals fearlessly. I am always more than happy to talk with Arab women, on my Instagram, who are interested in becoming sportswomen.”
Talking to sister publication, “Arab News,” she advised other aspiring female athletes to surround themselves with those who believe in them as much as they believe in themselves and to never stop working towards achieving their goals. “My biggest hope is that we have a full team of women for future competition,” she added.
Back in 2014, Fattouh became the first woman to represent Lebanon in Olympic Weightlifting at the IWF World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan. A year later she competed again at the IWF World Championship, held in Houston, USA, and earned the first IWF Olympic Qualification Points for Lebanon by a woman. After partnering with world-renowned weightlifting coach Ray Jones in 2017, she went on to win the first-ever international medal for Lebanon in women’s weightlifting, a silver, at the Mediterranean Games in Spain during the Women's 63KG Clean and Jerk event. And in 2019, a year she earned three gold medals, the inspiring Fattouh became the first female Arab Champion for Lebanon at the Arab Championship, which was held in Amman, Jordan.
While Fattouh, who strongly believes in drug-free training, spent some of her childhood in Lebanon, it was while she was growing up as a teenager in Florida that she discovered weightlifting. At about the age of 15 she started weightlifting for fun, never really expecting anything out of it. However, with a school that had a well-documented weightlifting programme and lots of support all around, things started to become serious. After competing in school and in university, Fattouh stopped for a while but then took up weightlifting once again before her wedding. Impressed by her own strength and propelled by the thought she could become Lebanon’s first internationally competing female in weightlifting, she soon started competing in major competitions and at international meets.
- Best competition snatch: 95kg (209lbs)
- Best competition clean and jerk: 121kg (267lbs)