In Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, sisters Ines, Israa and Oshin Muhsin have inherited a hefty mantle from their late father, using it to take their country to weightlifting glory.
“We want to write the history of women’s sports and preserve our father’s” memory, Ines told AFP. At just 20, she already has six gold medals under her belt, and along with her sisters has helped place Iraq squarely on the map of Middle East weightlifting.
The regional capital Arbil hosted a championship in December that brought together 14 Arab countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The Iraqi women’s national team — made up of 15 athletes, eight of them Kurdish — clinched the top spot, with nine gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
Ines and her sisters, all in their 20s, have been practising weightlifting for a decade, coached mainly by their father, who died last year of Covid-19 complications.
At her club’s modest gym in Arbil, Ines gets ready to lift a 30-kilo (66 pounds) bar, raising it high above her head before letting the weights crash to the floor. “We are already thinking of international com-petitions and qualification for the 2024 Paris Olym-pics,” Ines said, adding that the road to the Games would be “complicated”.
The trio — part of a generation born after their region first gained de facto autonomy in 1991 — need a translator to communicate with their fellow Iraqi teammates, as they only speak Kurdish.
Their bilingual mother does the job for local competitions, while another club staff member takes up the baton for trips further afield.
Sister Israa, a three-time gold medallist, said she dedicated her achievements to her late father.
“When he was young, he was an athlete, then he became a coach. It is thanks to him that I reached this level,” the 22-year-old said.—APP