Gaza: The 12-year-old boy from Gaza Mohammad al-Sheikh is resting his head on his foot, arching his back in a position that looks impossible. The next, he is sitting on a chair, but not in the normal way. His stomach is on the seat, and he has curled his legs around his back so far that his feet reach the floor.
Mohammad’s flexibility is almost superhuman, which has earned him the superhero nickname, “Spiderman.” Standing at only 4 ft. 6 inches tall and weighing a mere 64 pounds, Mohammad became a household name in the Arab world after starring on “Arab’s Got Talent” TV show last year and receiving 14 million votes in the finals.
He didn’t win but his popularity on the show did convince him to set his sights even higher. Now he wants to break the world record for the “most full body revolutions maintaining a chest stand” – a move that requires keeping your chest on the ground while walking your feet around your body.
The current world record was set by British contortionist Leilani Franco on July 21, 2014. She did 29. Mohammad says he can do 33. “I had flexibility in my body and I used to see some videos on YouTube for people who have the same flexibility,” he said, speaking from his home in Tal al Hawa in Gaza. “From here, I began to practice specific movements.”
He practices his movements and works on his flexibility every day, says his coach, Mohammed Lobbad. “He never stops. Mohammed is unique and he has high ambitions,” said Lobbad.
The youngster even practiced as the 50-day Gaza war during the summer of 2014 raged around him. “I release negative energy [when I practice]. I don’t fear the shellings anymore,” he said.
Mohammad also has longer-term goals. He wants to study medicine one day so he can help injured people begin their lives again. But in the short-term, he has a much simpler goal. “I hope I will see my mother happy one day because of me,” he said.
“We encouraged him to go to the ‘Arab’s Got Talent’ show, and we were so happy with the results,” his mother said. “I hope to see Mohammed performing in the international theaters.”
That is her son’s aim too. But he says Israel’s blockade of Gaza, in place for security reasons according to Israel, makes it difficult to leave the coastal enclave.
“He has many offers from abroad for festivals,” Lobbad said, “but Mohammad can’t attend any of them.” “In Gaza, there are a lot of talents,” said Mohammad, “but they can’t leave Gaza because of the siege.”