Those who have interacted with Nasser al-Attiyah over the years would vouch for the fact that there is nothing unlikeable about him. A rally driver par excellence and a six-time Olympian in shooting, al-Attiyah has been flying Qatar’s flag at top events for a quarter of a century during the course of which he has gained global acclaim as a sporting icon.

Besides being a three-time Dakar Rally champion and winner of multiple driving titles around the world, he also bagged a bronze at the London Olympics in 2012 after grabbing his spot at the Games with a dazzling show at what was the last qualifying event.

Passionate about Qatar, he also has strong views on politics and world affairs. In this Q&A with 'Gulf Times', he speaks about what keeps him focused and how Qatar emerged stronger during the past three years despite the Saudi Arabia-led illegal blockade.

Q: Today marks the completion of three years of the blockade. How has Qatar dealt with it in your opinion?

A: I think we are better off now than before. We have learned to live without depending on some of our neighbours. We have become self-sufficient. Earlier we used to be dependent on them for many of our requirements like food, medicine and other materials. But now we get a lot of supplies from other nations. Qatar has also established its own industries. Under His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar has also become secure in all aspects.

I think jealousy could be behind the unjust decision. Qatar was going to make history with the FIFA World Cup in 2022. But our Amir worked hard and came up with great diplomatic strategies to overcome the problems caused by the siege.

We have a great leader. Unity is our strength. Even the residents from other countries gave us great support. It was a united effort that saw Qatar emerge strong and self-reliant.

Q: Moving on to other topics now, how did you spend Ramadan as it coincided with the restrictions due to the coronavirus situation?

A: Well, my aim was to keep fit while spending quality time with my family. I also helped in the household chores, like cooking, which I like. I also worked out and as a result feel very good physically and mentally. In fact, I also even went to the shooting range for practice a few times after Ramadan and had a great time.

Q: Was it in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics which has been postponed to 2021?

A: Yeah, I am keen to qualify for my seventh Olympics. It will be a dream-come-true if that happens but there’s a lot of uncertainty at the moment because of the virus situation. Who knows the Olympics could be even cancelled? But despite that I am keeping my focus.

Q: What about the rallying events you were supposed to participate in?

A: Some of my events in July and August have been cancelled including the Silkway Rally in Russia which I won last year. There was one event in Spain and Poland in August. They too have been cancelled and it looks like, if everything goes well, the first competition I would get to see will be the Morocco Desert Challenge in September.

Q: You have opened an academy in Barcelona. Tell us about it.

A: Yes it’s called Nasser Racing where aspiring rally drivers and shooters will be provided world-class training. It is a dream project of mine. I bought 200 hectares of land for this project. The people there are very excited to be trained by a three-time Dakar Rally champion. When I approached the regional government of Catalunya they were very impressed. They gave me all the permissions. It already has two buildings with several rooms, a gym and swimming pools. I’ve been in touch with car manufacturers who have also helped.