Twelve athletes will carry the UAE's medal hopes into this week's Arab Athletics Championships, which start today in Damascus, Syria. The UAE is aiming for medals across a variety of events at the regional meet, with 200m specialist Omar Juma - the GCC's fastest man - and 400m hurdles favourite, Ali Obaid Shirook, tipped as the country's hottest medal prospects.
"[Shirook] is the favourite in his event, and Juma has a good chance of 200m gold," said Ahmed al Kamali, the president of the UAE Athletics Federation, before adding that Shirook, 28, has fully recovered from the hamstring strain he suffered in the Berlin heats. "He is the favourite for gold and is fully recovered after 25 days of intensive treatment." As well as the internationally proven pair, al Kamali identified triple jump prospect Mohammed Abas as another potential medal hope.
"He is the future of UAE athletics," said al Kamali. "He will be one to watch at the London Olympics in 2012." Abas, a bronze medal winner at the World Youth Championships, is already jumping around the 16.30m mark, and al Kamali is optimistic the 22-year-old athlete will set at new personal best this week. "His target is 17 metres - he should be a concrete medal winner," said al Kamali. First up for the UAE athletes, who will contest 13 events in the Syrian capital, however, is the 20km walk. Auob Sirwash, a silver medallist at the Gulf Games, will lead the country's charge.