The new head coach of the UAE swimming team said the country has the talent to produce a world champion in the sport. Paul Van Lieshout took charge of the top Emirati swimmers for the recent World Championships in Rome. It was a successful event for the UAE, who did not challenge for any medals but set 10 national records.
Van Lieshout believes there is much more to come from the country's swimmers - so long as they aim for gradual improvement and have competitors willing to put in the hard work. "This is why it is important we work hard and we begin to change the culture of the sport in this country," he said. "It starts with the clubs and their culture. "The athletes have to understand too that you don't get to this level because you're lucky. You get to this level because you work harder than everybody else and that is very important."
Van Lieshout, who has been at the helm for just 40 days, returned to Dubai yesterday with five swimmers who competed over 17 days at the Foro Italica Complex. "We had 21 swims in 15 events and set 10 national records so that far exceeded our expectations," he said. "They are very happy and excited and understand hard work is a good thing but they are very pleased with what they did. "They are committed to training. We have the Asian Games in November and want to start preparing for that."
The five swimmers, Mohammad Murbarak, 21, Mubarak Salem, 21, Obaid al Jesmi, 29, Saeed al Jesmi, 26, and Ali Salmen, 22, were part of the most successful UAE team. They broke national records in the 100m and 200m backstroke, 50m, 100m, 200m breaststroke, 200m freestyle, 200m individual medley, 200m butterfly and set records in the 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle. Van Lieshout, who was previously the head of the Egyptian team, said he was committed until the 2012 London Olympic Games and beyond if the UAE Swimming Federation agreed.
He said the team had suffered over the years because the athletes had a new coach each year and lacked consistency. "Unfortunately there is no consistency and that is a very common thing in Arab countries," he said. "They are always looking for the magician who can come in and turn things around immediately. "It doesn't happen, it never does. There are going to be growing pains and we are going to take a step or two back and we are going to take four forward but consistency of message is very important."
He said it was a very exciting time for swimming in the Emirates - with Dubai hosting next year's short course championships and recently winning the right to host the 2013 World Swimming Championships. Van Lieshout will head to Tokyo this week with Obaid Al Jesmi, who will compete in the Asian age group championships on August 9.