x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Emirati duo ready to take the plunge

Italy training camp designed to get Obaid al Jasmi and Mubarak Salem al Bashir ready for tilt at London Olympics.

DUBAI // Two UAE Olympic hopefuls left for Italy yesterday for a training camp they hope will prepare them for a career-defining year.

The sprinters Obaid al Jasmi and Mubarak Salem al Bashir are hoping to become the first Emirati swimmers to gain automatic qualification to the Olympics.

Jay Benner, their coach, will accompany the duo on the five-week trip to Italy and will tailor their programme to ensure they arrive in peak condition in Doha in December for the Arab Games. A gold medal-winning performance in Qatar could secure their passport to London 2012.

"We've never had a swimmer make the Olympic qualifying and I think Mubarak has a legitimate shot at swimming the time standard to get the automatic inclusion into the Olympics," Benner said of the breaststroke specialist. "He has prepared really well."

Al Jasmi already has experience in the big stage after competing at both the Athens and Beijing games as a wild card.

"Obaid has been a bit of a different story," Benner said. "Since the Gulf Championships in March, he has not been able to be real consistent with his training.

"He has had a number of interruptions with training. He has had a problem with his job for a while. He's had a little bit of illness. So he just hasn't been able to put together a real consistent period of training and the preparation is nowhere near we would like it to be.

"This next five weeks that we are going to be in Italy is going to be a very important time for him to try to still be in the frame in December."

Before the Arab Games, the pair will be in action next month at the World Championships in Shanghai before travelling to Kuwait for the GCC Championships.

Benner said his swimmers would compete only in the first three days of competition in Shanghai "because of the Gulf Championships".

He said al Bashir will be able to swim his best events, the 50 metre and 100m breaststroke. Al Jasmi will compete in the 50m butterfly and the 200m freestyle.

After their return from these two championships, the two swimmers will be flying out again for another camp to prepare for the Arab Games.

"They will be coming back for the GCC Championship in Kuwait," said Ayman Saad, the executive director of the Swimming Federation.

"After that, they will go for another one-month camp overseas. We will be doing this till the Arab Games.

"We are working very hard to achieve qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games and I am confident one of these two will definitely make it, if not both."