Monday July 22nd, 2024
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Olympic Rower Husein Alireza on Life, Loss & Pursuing a Perfect Stroke

As part of our exclusive docu-series spotlighting the people, places and movements shaping Saudi today, we present Olympic rower Husein Alireza.

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Olympic Rower Husein Alireza on Life, Loss & Pursuing a Perfect Stroke

Committing a description of Husein Alireza to proverbial paper is problematic because any way you write it he sounds like the type of fanciful fictional character whose arrival towards the end of chapter one spells trouble… but you know, the irresistible kind.

Yet these are simply the facts: He is tall, dark and in possession of the type of brooding looks that are the saving grace of glossy magazines (Vogue Man, Esquire and more have all devoted sprawling spreads to his story).

He spent his formative years in England at the renowned Charterhouse boarding school (the cut-glass accent is a giveaway) yet is happiest in his hometown of Jeddah enveloped by family and heritage. He holds a post-graduate degree from Cambridge and an undergrad from Edinburgh.

He’s the first Saudi rower to compete in the Olympics. He fell in love with the sport at Cambridge, decided to take on the greatest games known to mankind, made it to Tokyo 2020 having qualified against the odds and raised his country’s flag at the opening ceremony. The iconic moment catapulted him to a type of renowned that is a first of its kind in Saudi. He has become part of a cohort of default ambassadors representing a new generation of Saudis - globally educated yet fiercely patriotic. The living embodiment of the new new thing, part of a super pack who have been given the keys to the Kingdom.

It’s intoxicating, being part of this heady moment in history. And yet Alireza remains both grounded and grateful, no doubt due to the fact that his journey is one marked by illness and grief. At the very moment he should have been relishing in the glory of it all, he was battling for survival of both body and spirit. The scars he bears lend him a rare vulnerability that may yet prove to be the source of his success beyond the sport.

Currently aiming for election to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission, @scenenowsaudi presents Husein Alireza… as never before.