HUSSEIN ISHAIASH: LIVING THE OLYMPIC DREAM
Apr 10, 2016
There is a good chance that a couple of weeks ago, even the most passionate of Jordanian sports followers had not heard of the name Hussein Ishaiash.
But there is no doubt now that he is a household name.
That is because the 21-year-old did the unthinkable and qualified for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following a brilliant showing at the Asia and Oceania Olympic Qualifiers held in China.
In doing so, he became the first Jordanian name on the plane to South America, with swimmer Khader Baqleh still awaiting his final confirmation after making the Olympic ‘B’ time in the 200m freestyle.
“It is a dream come true, no doubt about it,” Hussein told www.joc.jo. “Ever since I joined the National Team in 2009, I wanted to reach the Olympics and now I have achieved this.”
It was indeed a remarkable achievement. Hussein is relatively ‘small’ for the heaviest weight in boxing and in China he had four fights in a week to qualify with is bronze.
“I have been on the Olympic Preparation Programme from the Jordan Olympic Committee (JOC) which has helped a lot and I wanted to do it for Jordan so this was a huge moment for me and I will be ready for the Rio Olympic Games. But it was very tough. I was exhausted but thanks to my coach and my teammates in China they got me through."
So the question many are asking is: Who is Hussein Ishaiash?
The policeman derives from a boxing family with two brothers also being good boxers so as he says “it is in the family genes”.
“My brothers encouraged me to box so I joined the Shabab Al Ordon Centre and I was chosen to represent the national team in 2009,” he said.
But it wasn’t until 2013 when the young Ishaiash really got the bug and realised he could become one of the world’s best.
“I first participated abroad at the International Armenia Boxing Championships 2013, when I reached the quarter final and this really encouraged me to work harder and to train more.
"I then took part in the Asian Qualifications for the World Championship in Thailand 2015. It was a challenge for me in the 91kg+ category because I am fighting giant athletes but I was able to qualify and then finished fifth at the World Championships to improve my ranking. I knew then that the Rio Games was within my grasp so I focused straight away on preparing."
He is currently coached by the Algerian Izzeldin Akoun, who describes Ishaiash as a born winner.
“He loves to win," said Akoun. “He has respect for his opponent but when he steps into the ring he wants to leave a winner. He has earned the respect of the community and he deserves to be recognised as a hero.
“But we have to keep his feet on the ground now and prepare him for Rio. It is a long and hard road but he has the mentality to do well.”
Whilst Hussein, a father of two, prepares for Rio, his teammates have one last bid to join him on the journey to South America at the final ‘world’ qualifications in Azerbaijan in May.
“We hope to have more qualifying boxers. The technical team will choose the best for a training programme and we will give it our best shot," added the coach.
Meanwhile, Ishaiash comes across as an honest and modest young man with praise for Akoun as well as his other coaches Ibrahim Al Za'boub and Mohmoud Ishaiash, who is also his brother.
It seems also that he is peaking at the right time. One of the fighters that comfortably beat him last year was on the end of an Ishaiash masterclass in China.
“My technique has improved a lot but of course it needs to get even better for Rio,” he said. “Every athlete’s dream is to participate in the Olympic Games. In Rio I will do my best to put Jordan on the map and I will fight for my dream."
By qualifying Ishaiash has made himself an early favourite for the 2016 Black Iris Sportsman of the Year Award, which he was shortlisted for in 2015, and it was through this that his name started to reach the mainstream sports fans.
"It was an honor for me to be nominated to this great award,” he said. It was shortly before the qualifications so it encouraged me to do more after realising just how much support there was in Jordan. It was the first time I realized there were so many fans out there hungry for Jordanian achievements. Fortunately I was able to make them proud."
He said that the JOC’s Olympic programme has helped him prepare without the pressure of work, with his focus away from family life being solely on his boxing.
The JOC has invested in 19 athletes this Olympics with April and May being crunch months for qualifying.
Reflecting on his short but successful career to date, he remembers facing a true giant in Kazakhstan who stood at a whopping 230cm tall.
“I looked across the ring and could only see this giant looking at me,” he said. “We stood opposite each in the middle before the bell and I was looking up at him thinking how short I must look next to him. Everybody was laughing but in the end I managed to beat him.”
Away from the ring he loves spending time with his young family and says his favourite food is Maqloubeh. He likes to swim but admits to not being particularly good.
After qualifying, Ishaiash was mobbed on his return to the airport and dedicated his achievement to His Majesty King Abdullah II, but also reserved thanks to HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein for all of his support as President of the JOC. He has also thanked his Federation for their support.
There are exciting times ahead as Rio draws ever nearer, but for Ishaiash it will be a period of hard work and dedication as he bids to make an impact on the biggest stage of them all.