"Train your mind and your body will follow."
Meet Yousef Albaqsami.
The 25-year-old beast of an athlete sits atop the 2013 Asia Leaderboard after the Open, making him the first-ever Kuwaiti individual athlete to compete at the Asia Regional.
Known now for taking Asia by storm over the course of the Open, Albaqsami is no stranger to sports.
“Growing up, I was always involved in different forms of martial arts and competed mostly in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After quitting my job in the banking sector, I didn’t have enough time or money to continue with martial arts,” says the stocky 5-foot-8 athlete. “I needed a sport I could both participate in and double up as a coach.”
The CrossFit bug bit Albaqsami after he saw the sport’s popularity rise in Dubai.
“I heard about CrossFit Fahrenheit and that it was the first affiliated box in Dubai. I gave Bilaal (Broadway) a call and he extended an open invitation.”
Thus began the Kuwaiti athlete’s tryst with CrossFit.
Switching gears wasn’t easy. Albaqsami, a middle-school computer teacher by day and an MMA/wrestling trainer by night, faced an uphill challenge while introducing CrossFit to the masses.
“This was 2012 and CrossFit was not accepted as a legitimate strength and conditioning method in Kuwait,” he says. “I had to work very hard to convince people to follow a new style of programming.”
Now, Albaqsami is the head coach of Kuwait’s first affiliate, CrossFit Q8.
His first few clients were the very wrestlers he used to train prior to opening the box. He started to incorporate CrossFit into their conditioning.
After several months, it was clear the Q8 community was getting stronger and gaining acceptance in the mainstream.
“The staff, management and coaches are all Kuwaiti — something we never would have imagined at the start.”
Now, he is faced something bigger and possibly even tougher — the 2013 Asia Regional.
During the Open, his powerlifting background came in handy on 13.1.
“The snatch is my all time favorite movement. Moving heavy weights comes naturally to me,” he says.
Heavy Olympic lifting may be Albaqsami’s forte, but topping the Asian charts for 13.3 proved he was no one-trick pony.
“I love muscle-ups, too. All I aimed for in that workout was to get to muscle-ups,” says Albaqsami, who went back to complete three wall balls after finishing a full round.
Albaqsami isn’t the only one in his family to qualify for the Asia Regional. Haya Alsharhan, his wife of three months, will also be competing in Seoul after placing 19th in the region.
“I met Yousef at the box, where initially he was my coach, and things moved on from there. We got married this March, which happened to be the weekend of 13.2. Our wedding night was spent eating cake and discussing our workout strategies,” recalls the first female Kuwaiti athlete to ever qualify for Regionals.
Albaqsami is looking toward the Asia Regional with great anticipation.
“All the (events) are tough for everyone," he admits. "I have gained extra mental strength through my background, but I think it’s a very level playing field."
Alsharhan couldn’t agree more with her husband.
“Train your mind and your body will follow.”
With a view to minimizing weaknesses, Albaqsami trains relentlessly and even manages to squeeze in double workouts during weekends.
“I usually train twice a day over the weekend. These workouts tend to be a mix of heavy lifts and some gymnastic movements. I don’t have planned rest days. I listen to my body: when it asks me to rest, I rest,” says the calm yet determined Albaqsami.
With an intense Regional schedule ahead, it’s fair to say that both Albaqsami and Alsharhan are glad they are not alone in Seoul.
“She’s always there for me and helps me with my nutrition and time management especially. On the other hand I have to help her break through mental barriers. She is stronger than she thinks.”
“No matter what happens, he has delighted CrossFit Q8 and he has done his country proud,” Alsharhan beams.
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