It's probably fair to say that most professional athletes have to place their whole effort into one sport in order to be successful. An exception is , from Qatar, who has long dreamed of winning a medal in the Olympics and in winning the Dakar Rally.
The talented 41-year-old managed to win the Dakar last year driving a when he was one of the factory drivers on the successful race team.
Last week his other dream came true when he got a Bronze medal in the clay pigeon (skeet) shooting contest at the . As Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito said, "It is really impressive to be successful in two such different disciplines."
Earlier this year Al-Attiyah joined Robby Gordon driving in a second Hummer in the but failed to finish. Meanwhile he has been competing in the WRC this year as the number one driver on the Qatar World Rally Team driving a C. The team is in essence the second factory team as the cars are maintained from the same facility as the Citroen factory team.
Al-Attiyah had to forgo competing in the Rally Finland this past weekend as his Olympic exploits took precedence. Australian, Chris Atkinson drove his Citroen in his place but finished well down the field after hitting a rock and damaging the car.
Al-Attiyah first competed in the Olympics in 1994 in Atlanta, which was also the first year Qatar, now the worlds' wealthiest country in terms of GDP per capita, entered the Olympics. He began his rally career ten years later and won the Production WRC in 2006. So far this year his best finish has been fourth in the Rally Portugal and he currently lies in tenth place in the 2012 championship.
Racing historians will realize that Al-Attiyah is not the first champion caliber race driver to also participate in clay pigeon shooting. Jackie Stewart was a champion as a teenager before he got into motor racing. He tried out for the 1960 Olympics, but was unsuccessful in gaining a position on Great Britain's team. Of course, he then went on to be one of the most successful drivers of all time. Have there been other champion auto racing drivers who have got medals in the Olympics? There are certainly some Olympians who have gone on to compete in auto racing, but not necessarily at the top echelons of the sport, after they've retired from the Olympics.
It's also worth noting that Alex Zanardi has been confirmed as a member of the Italian team for the London Paralympics to be held at the end of this month.