DUBAI //This summer's Olympic Games could boast the UAE's biggest ever contingent, with three confirmed entries and a dozen more hoping to meet the qualifying standards.
The UAE had eight competitors at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This time around Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum (skeet), and Sheikh Juma bin Dalmouk and Dhaher Al Oryani (trap) have already qualified for the shooting competitions at the London Games with their performance in the Asian Championships in Qatar last month.
Ahmed Al Kamali, the president of the UAE Athletics Federation, has promised three more qualifiers while the country's judokas, wrestlers, weightlifters and football team are also in the running.
"Historically in the UAE, we qualify through invitations and wild cards," said Yousuf Al Serkal, the vice president of the National Olympic Committee.
"This time, three athletes have already qualified and we have a promise of another 10. This shows a positive improvement in our sports. Now we don't just qualify through invitations, but through competitions. This is a good indication.
"Maybe we can do something. We have won one gold medal [Sheikh Ahmed bin Hashar in the double trap at Athens 2004] and there is a good chance now because we have three participants in shooting. So I believe we have a good chance of another medal or two."
Al Kamali is putting his hopes on Mohammed Abdullah Abbas (triple jumper), Ali Obaid Shirook (400m hurdles), Bethlem Desaleyn (1,500m and 5,000m) and Alia Mohammed Saeed (1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m) to meet the Olympics standards.
"We are ready for three," Al Kamali said. "That should not be a problem. And if we can be realistic, we can expect one of them to even reach the final. Alia I believe can reach the final in one of her events.
"She will be trying to qualify in the 1,500m, 5,000m and the 10,000m and then we will see where her best chances are. It will be very difficult for Bethlem to go to the final because 1,500m is a very tough run, very tactical race."
Omar Juma Al Salfa, the UAE's leading sprinter over 200m, who finished sixth at the Arab Games in December, is injured and, according to Al Kamali, not in contention.
Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid (taekwondo, 67kg), Khalifa Al Qubaisi (judo 74kg), Mohammed Qubaisi (wrestling 74kg), the swimmers Mubarak Beshir and Obaid Al Jasmi, and weightlifters Yasmin Abbas, Alia Abdullah and Nahla Mazroui are also fancied to make the trip to London.
The Olympic Committee is trying to create an awareness about doping among these prospective competitors after a few of the country's participants failed dope tests at the Arab Games. "Recently, we had a meeting with the different federations, especially with those who are in charge of the technical side," Al Serkal said.
"We will also have meetings with people in charge of doping … to make sure our athletes who go there, we don't have such results.
"We have already established an awareness programme because what happened at the Arab Games was not intentional. It was a lack of awareness on the part of our athletes. They purchased some food supplements which contained some forbidden items."