Majed Mohammed al Hammadi has qualified for this month's hat-trick of FINA Open Water World Cup meetings.
Al Hammadi secures his world spot
ABU DHABI // Majed Mohammed al Hammadi has qualified for this month's hat-trick of FINA Open Water World Cup meetings - taking place across three different emirates - after finishing third in yesterday's Open Water Championships at Abu Dhabi International Marine and Sports Club. Although the national qualifier featured 275 swimmers in five different age categories, only one berth - in the open age segment - was available for the UAE's trio of World Cup events.
UAE Swimming Federation (UAESF) officials selected al Hammadi despite him finishing behind winner Vladimir Stebanov and second-placed Obaid Ahmed Obaid. A national record holder, short distance specialist Obaid is on a tailored programme designed to take him to the London Olympics in 2012, and UAESF chiefs are reluctant to overload him. Thus, al Hammadi joins compatriot Ali Saeed Obaid al Kaabi in the UAE's two-man squad for the country's first triple hosting of official FINA meets - which are the 10km World Cup events in Dubai (October 17), Sharjah (Oct 21), and a 15km Grand Prix in Ajman (Oct 25).
"This is a big story for us," said Ayman Saad, executive secretary of the UAESF. "This is the first time we've organised three events in three different emirates." Among a world-class field of 75 swimmers from 28 countries, al Hammadi and al Kaabi should receive raucous home support in each of the three meets. But Saad played down the possibility either swimmer could cause an upset and win. "We have the top 20 men and women in the world coming. Our UAE swimmers may not have much chance of winning, but they can learn a lot from the experience," said Saad.