Driven Al-Attiyah shooting for Qatari sporting immortality

"My story is included in the history books for school children" Nasser Al-Attiyah proudly told ESPN in 2017 and with Sunday's fifth victory in the Dakar Rally he has guaranteed another chapter will be added.

The 52-year-old shares top billing as Qatar's most accomplished sportsman with high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim but it is the latter's Olympic gold medal -- he shared the title in Tokyo in 2021 -- that Al-Attiyah would covet more than anything.

Al-Attiyah has competed in every Olympics in skeet shooting since the 1996 Games in Atlanta showing the same gritty determination he has done in umpteen Dakar Rallies to secure himself a medal of any kind.

Eventually it arrived as he won a shoot-off in the 2012 Games in London beating Russian Valeriy Shomin -- improving on his fourth place in 2004.

"This time I told myself that I must win the medal -– for my country, for all Arabs," Al-Attiyah told Sport360.

"I have everything in my home except an Olympic medal. It means so much."

Al-Attiyah -- who was winning only Qatar's fourth ever Olympic medal -- had really hit his sporting straps as it came a year after the first of his victories in the Dakar Rally.

Four Dakar Rally wins later -- with his co-pilot and the man he calls his best friend Mathieu Baumel -- and failing to medal at the Rio Games in 2016 his appetite is far from sated.

He still entertains hopes of winning gold in the 2024 Games in Paris and inspiring more Qatari school children to take up either shooting or car racing.

"After reading about me, a lot of youngsters want to participate in shooting and racing," he says.

Al-Attiyah once had three sports on the go but dropped horse riding fearing a hand injury would prevent him competing in his other two sporting pursuits.

- 'Helped me excel' -

His love of derring-do and daredevilry had pushed him towards becoming a pilot as well but then he shelved it.

"I had dreams of becoming a pilot, especially since my cousins were pilots and I was the youngest among them," he told Jordan News in 2021.

"They graduated from flight school in the UK."

However, a chance opportunity to partner another cousin in a Rally persuaded him his feet belonged on the ground and not up in the air.

His father Saleh it was, though, who had set him on the path to both his preferred sports.

Saleh bought him a Nissan Patrol when he was 18 and he enjoyed instant success nationally whilst Al-Attiyah senior also took him hunting.

"My father said 'Nasser, you are a hunter. If you want to improve, you need to practice clay pigeon," Al-Attiyah told ESPN.

"It will help you concentrate and help your mind to be strong'.

"And later when I realised I was getting good at it, I decided to keep shooting."

Al-Attiyah says that far from one proving to be a distraction they complement each other.

"Juggling between two professional sports and feeling the pressure to be the best in both is very challenging," he told Qatari website Q Life in 2018.

"Shooting has helped me excel in rally driving because of the immense concentration needed. It helped me stay mentally strong."

For the moment Al-Attiyah awaits a new generation to replace him.

"The Qatar government says if you find another Nasser, we will let you retire," he told ESPN.

"Until now there is no one else like me, so I keep shooting."

If that results in him winning gold in Paris next year then he may have a history book solely devoted to him.

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