I STILL THINK IT IS A DREAM: AHMAD ABU GHAUSH
Oct 03, 2016
On August 18, Ahmad Abu Ghaush’s life changed forever.
On that one single day, the 20-year-old taekwondo fighter changed the mood of an entire nation with an awe-inspiring display of martial arts brilliance that captured Jordan’s first ever medal at an Olympic Games.
But not only did he capture our first medal, he ensured it was gold by beating the world champion, world No 1 and a reigning Olympic champion on his way to greatness at the Rio Olympic Games.
It was stunning stuff. Jordan Olympic Committee President HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein congratulated him on the phone immediately having been one of the hundreds of thousands of countrymen and women who stayed up until 5am local time to watch his final.
A morning phone call from His Majesty King Abdullah II came ahead of a whirlwind 24 hours that saw him interviewed by news networks from across the world.
Everyone wanted a slice of the heroic university student who had become an immediate national icon.
By the time he arrived home five days later, his image was already adorning billboards all over Jordan and a ‘selfie’ with Ahmad became the most prized asset for any Jordanian, of any age.
To put his overnight fame into perspective, Ahmad can no longer walk down the street without being mobbed.
It is something every youngster dreams of and Ahmad has been quick to announce that “This is just the beginning”.
And who can doubt him, he was the youngest fighter in the 68kg class but despite this, Ahmad, and his coach Faris Al Assaf, had set their goal on gold.
“It has been an unbelievable experience since that night,” he said. “Nothing can prepare you for what has happened since. I keep thinking it is a dream and that I will wake up and things are back to normal. But I realise the magnitude of what was achieved and appreciate that it will bring with it a lot of attention and commitments.”
Despite his young years, Ahmad has handled the chaotic aftermath admirably. He has the looks of a champion and he is never too busy or too tired to accept a photograph with his now adoring public.
But deep down he knows that there is one thing he wants and it is a sign of a true champion.
“I just want to get back in the gym and train,” he said. “Looking back over the past few weeks, winning gold now seems like the easy part with everything that has happened since being the hard work! I have lost count of the amount of interviews I have carried out.”
It is all a far cry from when he first started taekwondo as a six-year-old to follow in his brother’s footsteps. The man in his corner in Rio, Faris, was the man who was also there from the very start.
“Faris Al Assaf is my partner and not just my coach and without his support this achievement wouldn’t have happened," he said. “Both of us want to just get back to work and prepare for our next tournament which is a World Grand Prix in either Manchester or Mexico.
“But we want to thank all the support we have had. It is very much appreciated. I am so proud to have done this for Jordan.”
As Olympic champion he is now the man everyone wants to beat so he knows there can be no holes in his preparation. He was in a similar position in 2010 after winning both the World Youth and the Asian Youth Championships. He knows that there can be no mistakes from here on in as he looks towards defending his medal at Tokyo 2020.
But when did the Olympic flame begin to burn inside Ahmad? Perhaps a post on his Facebook wall in 2012 as a 16-year-old watching the Olympics on television will give it away.
It reads: “In 2008, I was young, I watched and I was happy just to watch. Here I am in 2012, I am watching the Games and I'm motivated. In 2016 I hope my dream comes true and I am competing to bring the first medal for my country and it will be gold, God Willing.”
There is not a lot that can be said after that.