Every champion has to start somewhere. Channel the UAE’s best Olympic medal hopes for Rio 2016 from shooting, cycling and athletics to judo
As UAE national champion Yousif Mirza cinched silver at the 2015 Asian Cycling Championships, his prize – a flight to Brazil for August 2016 – was no longer just the dream of an 11-year-old Emirati who gave up shin pads for puncture kits and saddle sores.
Mirza joined the UAE national team in 2007 and left Tour de France champion Vincenzo ‘The Shark’ Nibali all at sea in the inaugural Dubai Tour last year. His success winning two jerseys in Qatar’s Tour of Zubarah proved his dominance over European exports, all the while holding down a day job at the Ministry of Interior at Abu Dhabi airport.
But creating champions like Mirza who make up the UAE’s Olympic teams in cycling, athletics, shooting and judo begins on desert tracks, floodlit ranges and on foam mats. Up to 15 athletes could attend the games if wild cards in sailing, weightlifting and swimming are granted, vying to pin down the UAE’s second gold medal since the retired Sheikh Ahmad bin Mohammad bin Hasher Al Maktoum’s in shooting (skeet) at Athens 2004.
Inspired? Vision rounds up how you can follow in the UAE Olympian’s footsteps this summer…
The UAE Olympic hopes: Betlhem Desalegn (women’s 1,500m) and Alia Saeed Mohammed (women’s 10,000m)
Where to try: National competitive athlete Lisa Campbell founded Ultimate Athletics at Dubai Sports City in 2015, offering a range of fun and elite multi-disciplined sessions for toddlers to adults alike. Personalised one-to-one training, strength and conditioning sessions and gait analysis are also available. Every night from October to May, ‘Ultimate Racenights’ sponsored by Saucony are held at the track and field club to encourage friendly competition between local clubs.
The UAE Olympic hope: Youssif Mirza (Men’s Road Race)
Where to try: You are spoiled for scenic cycling routes in Dubai. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai turned an unused camel track into Nadd Al Sheba Cycle Path with a choice of 8km 6km or 4km loops with views of the Burj Khalifa. Alternatively, the Al Qudra Cycle Path (86km) passes through the sand dunes and by the Bab Al Shams Hotel for a mid-race beverage. Every Wednesday, enjoy free cycle safe nights at the Dubai Autodrome race track circuit for 2.5km or try the Jumeirah Beach Track for a pedal next to the sand.
The UAE Olympic hopes: Khalid Al Kabi and Saif bin Futtais (double trap)
Where to try: Jebel Ali Shooting Club is a stat-of-the art range designed in the style of a fort, offering both indoor and outdoor academies. Five floodlit clay-shooting ranges cater to all three Olympic disciplines: trap, double trap and skeet. Recreational and competitive shooting for beginners, corporate groups and experienced shooters alike are welcome.
The UAE Olympic hopes: Victor Scvortov, Sergiu Toma and Ivan Remarenco
Where to try: Some of the world’s best judokos reside in the UAE and certainly Scvortov, Toma and Remarenco were nurtured at the UAE Wrestling, Judo and Kick Boxing Federation in the art of ‘the gentle way’ (otherwise known as ju-do). The club offers training for novices and advanced athletes in the art of defending oneself with only the body from elite champions.