Being known as the “Ice Princess” is no joke. Imagine being the first Muslim woman to perform in a Hijab on the ice, not only representing all the young females but also a religion that is very much criticized around the world. No pressure, right? I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Zahra Lari, the “coolest” ❄️young lady making headlines. Be prepared to have your eyes opened to the intense day-in-the-life of a figure skater and how she deals with the criticism in her sport.
MM: What was it about figure skating that attracted you to the sport?
ZL: I loved the uniqueness of it. I loved how it’s a winter sport and I’m from a desert country!
What does a typical day-in-the-life of Zahra Lari like?
Well, my routine differs everyday – but I usually wake up at 5:30am and am at the rink for my off ice warm up at 6:15am and on the ice at 7am. We finish my first on ice session at around 8:30-9am and then we do stretching until 9:30am. After that, I go home, have breakfast and rest for a bit and by 11:45am I’m back at the rink for another off ice warm up and back on the ice at 12:30PM. We usually finish our second practice at around 2pm and then we do some off ice workouts (skipping rope, core strengthening, elastic bands, jumps and rotations, and stretching). I then sometimes have to run to a physiotherapy session and I’m back home by 5:30pm.
This is my schedule at the moment but when I have university it’s very different since I have to attend classes in between training. I also have to do a lot of media, interviews, and speeches alongside the training.
What does the Hijab mean to you? And how does it affect your sport?
My hijab is a part of me. It doesn’t affect my training or my sport at all.
Did you face any criticism from friends or family when you started your journey towards figure skating?
When I first wanted to start skating my mom said no but my dad took me to get lessons anyway. After that my mom started taking me and sitting and watching me skate. Once I decided to make it more than a hobby my dad stopped me and said I’m getting older and I shouldn’t be doing competitions. I listened to him because well, he’s my dad and dad’s know best. He noticed how upset I was and thought about his decision and realized he made a mistake and that there was nothing wrong with me competing. Now everyone in my family and all my friends support me 100% and my family also opened the first and only registered figure skating club in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) called Emirates Skating Club so we get professional coaching.
If you were not a figure skater what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t figure skating I would probably be a gymnast because ever since I was a kid I’ve always loved gymnastics tricks and I’ve always been very active.
When you were approached by Nike to be part of their ad, what was going through your mind? How did it feel to be representing young Muslim women who look up to you?
When Nike first approached me I was shocked and super excited to be part of an amazing campaign. It meant the world to me. I always try to motivate and inspire other women to participate in sports, so when I was part of this I was very proud and honored.
Is there a quote that you live your life by?
There is a quote that I love but I’m not sure who it’s by. “Champions rarely talk. They just perform and the world around them talks.” I love it because with my skating there were so many haters and doubters out there criticizing me and saying I’ll never be able to perfect the difficulties that come with skating. I never paid them any attention, I just preformed and proved everyone wrong.
Your costumes are absolutely amazing, do you have input with the designs?
I sit with my designer who owns EF Performance in the UAE and we brainstorm about the color and design according to my choreography and music. I always try to make my costumes different and unique!
You have such a strong bond with your mother and it’s so beautiful to see, what does your mother mean to you?
My mom means the world to me! She’s my mother, my sister and my best friend. We spend a lot of time together and she’s my biggest inspiration. I love her so much.
You have traveled around the world and have seen some amazing countries, which was your favorite and why?
I think my favorite country is probably Japan because it was very different than all the other countries that I’ve been to. I went to Japan this year for the Asian Winter Games and it was a great experience. I had a blast!
If you could give any advice to the little girls out there who look up to you, what would it be?
Whatever you do in life…
- Make sure you love it
- Give it 100% everyday
- HAVE FUN!
When you step on the ice, what emotions do you have? Are you scared, excited, nervous?
During competitions I do get nervous but that’s normal – you just need to learn how to control those nerves and perform at your best. I always say my biggest competition is myself because I always want to be better than I was yesterday.
…I always want to be better than I was yesterday.
I have watched figure skating from a young age and I remember the greats like Nancy Kerrigan, Kristie Yamaguchi, Brian Botano, and now Zahra Lari! What does it mean to be amongst the greats and recognized for your amazing achievements?
WOW what an honor! I’m very proud of myself and of all the achievements I’ve made so far because not only have I changed things for myself but also for every Muslim girl out there who has dreams in a certain field, and that makes me very happy.
What is your go to snack? Every woman out there is wonder what you like to eat and keep that amazing trim figure.
I like having yogurt or fruit during my breaks. It’s healthy and gives me the energy I need to keep going. It’s important for girls to know that you should never starve to keep a good figure, all you need to do is eat healthy.
Do you have any rituals before you hit the ice?
I actually do 😎. I always tie my left skate before my right skate and I usually like to be alone before going on ice to compete so I can really focus and keep myself calm and be ready to hit the ice.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are coming up and I know that you are training long and hard for them. What would it mean for you to represent the UAE in the Winter Olympics and make history?
It would mean everything for me to be able to go to the Olympics and raise the UAE flag for the first time in a Winter Olympics. I’ll try my best to qualify but if I don’t for the 2018 Games then I’ll definitely aim for the 2022!
Please join us in cheering on the “Ice Princess” as she follows her dreams and changes the world by hopefully competing for the UAE Olympic team in 2018!