Gunning for glory: UAE at the Games

Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher Al Maktoum. (SUPPLIED)


In Athens in 2004, Sheikh Ahmed, aged 38 and competing in his second Olympics, surprised the world and penned his name in the annals of Emirati sporting history when he won gold in the men's double trap shooting category.

Now, four years later, the 42-year-old has emerged from a premature retirement determined to retain his medal.

He told Emirates Business: "I decided to retire for several reasons, but mostly because I wanted to get married.

"However, I go to Beijing to defend my title rather than picnic. I will do my best to hoist the UAE flag high despite a short preparation period."

Shiekh Ahmed gets his title defence under way tomorrow morning.


Sheikha Maitha, daughter of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will be seen smiling and enjoying the atmosphere at the opening ceremony today in Beijing. She has been chosen to hoist the quad-colour of the UAE flag high into the air.

But expect that to be the last time you will see her smile until she leaves Beijing with a medal. The Emirati taekwondo specialist is firmly focused on winning gold this month and there is little doubt she has the ability to succeed in the 67kg category in China. Sheikha Maitha won gold at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha and the success has given her the confidence to battle with the world's best.

"Everybody who is going to compete in Beijing is going there to win and I am no exception," she said.

"I have to respect them all. They have all dedicated themselves to this and the only thing they want is a medal. I am the same though and I will have to match their focus if I am to succeed."


Today may mark the start of the 29th edition of the Olympic Games, but for one Emirati, there is another reason to celebrate. Obaid Al Jasmi turns 26 today.

But the Abu Dhabi-based swimmer is unlikely to be found eating cake – he takes part in the heats of the 100 metres freestyle on Tuesday.

Other than the two shooters, Al Jasmi is the only other Emirati athlete who has travelled to Beijing with Olympic experience. The police officer swam at the 2004 Olympics, finishing the 100m in 54.17 seconds. Since Athens, Al Jasmi has set a new UAE record of 53.7 seconds. However, he knows that with seven-time champions Michael Phelps sharing his discipline, his chances of a medal are miniscule. Instead he has set himself his own target – swim 100m in under 52 seconds.


Sheikha Latifa will become the first Emirati woman to compete in an equestrian event at the Olympics when she saddles up for the first round of the individual showjumping event next Friday.

The Dubai-based rider qualified in March last year after performing admirably at the Qatar International Showjumping Championship on the back of her own horse Kalaska de Semilly (Normandy Night).

Immediately after her performance, Sheikha Latifa revealed how much strain she felt she was under.

"I was under tremendous pressure in the first two rounds and it is always difficult to perform under pressure," she said.

"It wasn't an easy course, as we saw not many riders get through, but in the end all that matters is the qualifier for the Olympics and I have done it."

The pressure will be even greater in Beijing where she will be up against the best showjumpers in the world.


Sheikh Saeed is the second of the UAE's two shooters who will compete this month in China. The 32-year-old will take part in the skeet competition in Beijing for the third successive time.

"This is my third Olympics and I am going into it in my best form," he said. "I have had very good preparation and I hope to a win a medal. But all the marksmen here are good enough to win a medal."


While many 17-year-old athletes would be eager just to get to the Olympic Village and soak up the atmosphere, Omar Al Qubaisi is just keen to get competing and says he is confident of springing a surprise.

"It is my dream to win the gold medal in Beijing and I believe I can do it," he said. "I am excited about representing the UAE and I am thinking only about winning my class."

Al Qubaisi will fight in the under-73kg division, starting tomorrow.


In 2001, Adel Khalid graduated from traditional Middle Eastern dhows to Olympic standard laser dinghies.

Now, seven years on, the Abu Dhabi-based sailor is set to become the Arab World's first Olympian in such a discipline.

"I am really proud of representing my country," he said recently. "When I heard the news, I was over the moon."

Khalid will get his men's solo laser radial campaign under way on Tuesday and the young Emirati has certainly caught the wind in his sails since his successful Pan-Arab Games in Cairo last year, where he won gold.

"I am feeling very good and confident," he said. "I didn't go to the Asian Games, but if I had gone there, I would have won the gold for sure.

"I have been training and competing in Europe for seven months since January and I feel ready for the Olympics.

"It is the dream of every athlete and sportsperson to compete in the Olympics. So it has been my dream as well.

"Now that I am going to Beijing, I feel proud of myself, I feel proud for my country and I hope to put the UAE on top of the world."


While Great Britain attempts to quell the hype surrounding 14-year-old diver Tom Daley, the UAE is attempting a similar approach with their star sprinter Al Salfa.

At 18, Al Salfa may be a little older, but his goal is the same – enjoy Beijing and soak up the experience for a competitive London 2012.

The Dubai-based athlete will line up against the likes of Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell in the 100m and 200m on August 15 and 18. Understandably, the Emirati is remaining realistic: "I just hope to learn from the experience."