It takes a lot of training and effort to be a multi-sport athlete, but Nasser Al-Attiyah has made it work as a multi-time Dakar Rally champion and Olympic medalist. Fresh off his fifth Dakar victory, the Qatari hopes to be in Paris in a year for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
“[Paris] is my second [major] goal,” Al-Attiyah told The Peninsula. “I have started preparing for Paris and will continue my preparation to get ready for the challenge.
“This will be my seventh Olympic Games appearance. It will not be easy, but this year we will have a lot of preparation. We will have a two-month training camp in Italy, and then we will take part in the Asian Games, Asian Championship and the Arab Championship to continue practice. Then next year we will focus more on shooting for the Olympic Games.”
While Al-Attiyah is obviously known for his rally exploits, he has also been a competitive skeet shooter since the 1990s, making his International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Shooting Championships début in 1994. He appeared at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and finished fifteenth in the men’s skeet competition. After nearly medalling at Athens 2004 when he finished fourth, he held off Russia’s Valeriy Shomin for the London 2012 bronze with one more hit in the third-place shoot-off. Al-Attiyah was Qatar’s first medalist in shooting.
He is one of six skeet shooters to record a perfect score of 150 (achieved by hitting all 150 targets) in an international final, which he did at the 2012 Asian Shooting Championships, one of the Olympic qualifying events. The feat came just a day after he retired from the Dakar Rally while leading; Al-Attiyah admitted in 2021 that he had intentionally exited the Rally to make it to the Championships. Al-Attiyah has three golds at the championships.
Al-Attiyah continued to represent Qatar at every subsequent Olympics until 2016. Despite winning bronze at the ISSF World Cup, he fell short of making the Tokyo 2020 roster as he needed a gold to place high enough in the ISSF rankings to qualify.
While missing the Olympics is obviously a disappointment, he seemed to channel the heartbreak into solidifying himself as one of the top off-road racers today. In the years since, he won two more Dakar Rallies including back-to-back in 2022 and 2023, the 2022 World Rally-Raid Championship, and even his first Extreme E victory in the 2022 season finale.
He will spend the rest of 2023 balancing between racing for another W2RC title and the Extreme E championship, and participating in Olympic qualifiers.
Al-Attiyah is among a small overlap of racing drivers who won Olympic medals. The most recent example came at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, where Stadium Super Trucks alumnus Nick Baumgartner took gold in Mixed Team Snowboard Cross for the United States. The skiing world especially seems to produce successful crossover stories such as four-time gold medalist Gunde Svan, who went on to be a title contender in European Rallycross; Al-Attiyah’s W2RC rival Guerlain Chicherit is a four-time ski freeriding world champion; and alpine skier Luc Alphand competed in three Olympics before winning the 2006 Dakar Rally. Twice skiing gold winner Aksel Lund Svindal currently dabbles in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi also has a pair of Paralympic cycling gold medals for Italy, while British Olympic cycling greats Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy boast sports car experience and 2010 skeleton gold medalist Amy Williams has done rallying. Tom Stallard, an engineer for Oscar Piastri at McLaren F1, won the 2008 silver in rowing. 1976 decathlon gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner had a brief sports car career and won the 2022 W Series championship as a team owner. Gunde Svan, one of
Prince Birabongse Bhanudej (sailing), Divina Galica (skiing), Willi Krakau (rowing), Roberto Mieres (sailing), Ben Pon (shooting), Alfonso de Portago (bobsleigh), Bob Said (bobsleigh), and Robin Widdows (bobsleigh) all competed in Formula One as well as the Olympics. Morrison Hart, who finished the 2023 Dakar Rally in the Malle Moto class, was a member of the American sailing team but missed the cut for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.