DUBAI // It is almost a decade since the UAE claimed its first Olympic Games medal. Now, in a bid to improve the country’s sporting standing, the Emirates’ only gold medallist is launching a shooting academy with the intention of creating a conveyor belt of Emirati Olympians.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher won the double-trap event at the 2004 Games in Athens, competed at Beijing in 2008 and has spent the past five years coaching Peter Wilson, who took gold at the London Games last summer for Great Britain.
Now Sheikh Ahmed has told his foreign apprentices that his focus will be restricted to his compatriots.
The National Association of Shooting will encourage and educate local children from the age of seven, with the long-term target being to create shooters capable of competing at international level.
“If we look at the past eight or nine years, I did not do as I was supposed to do,” Sheikh Ahmed said as explanation for the UAE’s disappointment at recent Games. “If anyone is to blame, it should be me. I can’t keep helping foreigners anymore.
“I love the sport, but that is not the main thing. I love my country and it has given me a lot, but what have I given my country? I have coached a British guy from nothing and made him an Olympic champion. I am happy for him, but at the same time I am sad because I would have loved to do it with my own people. Now I have no excuse.”
Sheikh Ahmed said it took a 30-minute conversation by phone with Wilson to convince him he was serious and that their time together would be coming to an end. He had similar discussions with his other foreign students.
“Now we will look to bring them over here and have them train with us,” he said.
A child who starts training, said Sheikh Ahmed, cannot expect to reach an international level for around 13 years.
“This sport is in the blood of our people,” he said. “We are originally bedouins from the desert. We did not have football, but rather air rifles and falcons and camels.
“I have had a lot of parents approaching me asking when I am going to start an academy.
“It was a big load on my shoulders, so finally I am going to get it going.”
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