Voices of Youth Inspire! "If I knew what I was doing was right, and I had my family and country's support, then I didn’t care what others thought or said"
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VOY had the chance to interview UAE's top figure skater. Zahra Lari wears the hijab when skating on the ice. She was also the first female from the Gulf to perform in an international competition, with the hijab. Find out how she got where she is today, her dreams, the special advice she has for you, and WATCH her skate!
Your name: Zahra Lari
Your age: 18 years old
Where are you originally from and where do you currently live?
I’m originally from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and I also live there.
According your business card – what is your job title?
I am a university student and a competitive figure skater.
And how does that compare with what you wanted to do when you were 10 years old?
When I was 10 years old I didn’t even know what figure skating was. I really didn’t know at that time what I wanted to do in the future.
Give us 10 words that describe your typical work day.
Busy, hectic, determined, hardworking, dedicated, stressful, tiring, up-beat, scheduled, and exciting.
In a nutshell, how did you get to where you are right now? Name some of the most important milestones.
After seeing the movie Ice Princess when I was 11 years old, I was determined to learn ice skating. I started taking lessons and quickly improved. The better I skated, the more lessons I needed and the more difficult it became to convince my father to allow me to continue. It wasn’t until there was a competition in Dubai and I wasn’t allowed to participate, that my father saw how sad it made me. From that day on, he and the rest of my family have supported me. However, when I was invited for a competition in Italy there were a lot of negative online comments made by various people around the world. Some of them were questioning me and some were just very mean. My mother and father told me to not read them and just ignore it. That wasn’t easy to do, but when I had the privilege of meeting some of the leading figures of UAE, they told me that what I was doing made them and my country proud. That made me realize that if I knew what I was doing was right and I had my family and country's support then I didn’t care what others thought or said. Everyone has a right to their opinion and I respect that, but I would hope that the same respect be given to me.
I work very hard at this sport. I train, on average, 24 hours (on and off the ice). I also have strength training and core training. What I do isn’t easy but it is my passion and I always encourage girls in the Middle East to participate in sports, eat healthy and live healthy lifestyles.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get to your current position and how did it help you to grow as a person?
My biggest obstacle was convincing my Dad that what I am doing is acceptable and that I love it so much.
What are the top three things someone needs to excel in your field?
Dedication, patience and passion.
What do you think is the MOST important thing governments and/or companies can do to help young people get started in their careers?
Information and knowledge is the key to the success of any career. People have to be made aware of the possibilities. They have to have the ability and support to be successful and this should be made available. You have to give new people a chance to succeed.
On a lighter note, tell us about the strangest day you’ve ever had at work or the strangest thing you had to do?
The strangest day that I ever had was when I received a call to come to the rink and skate with Evan Lysacek. He was in Abu Dhabi and he rented the rink for practice. He asked for me to come and practice with him. That was amazing! He had his Olympic gold medal with him and I was able to hold it. That’s when I decided to plan my training around my dream of competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Some words to youth out there: What advice can you give them when chasing their dream position?
I think that everyone should have a dream. There will always be obstacles to overcome but if you are determined and work hard then you can make all your dreams come true. There are sacrifices that have to be made and maybe there will be people who don’t support you but if this is truly what you are passionate about then go for it!!