x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Hamid's golden dream

Rashid Abdul Hamid, the UAE's best table tennis player, has set himself the not inconsiderable target of a hat-trick of gold medals at this week's GCC Championship.

Rashid Abdul Hamid, top, was part of the UAE team that last won the GCC championship at the cadet level in 2005.
Rashid Abdul Hamid, top, was part of the UAE team that last won the GCC championship at the cadet level in 2005.

DUBAI // Rashid Abdul Hamid, the UAE's best table tennis player, has set himself the not inconsiderable target of a hat-trick of gold medals at this week's GCC Championship. "I have three golds as my goal; gold in the teams, the doubles and the singles," said Hamid, who was brimming with confidence at the Al Nasr Club before his first match yesterday.

Unlike some sportsmen, who can often take a fatalistic view to competition, Hamid, 21, who has been a member of the UAE national team for more than 10 years, believes he and his teammates have their best shot of winning the senior title in this, the 14th championship. "I know I sound confident, but we have put in the hard work in training, we have an excellent coach and we have home advantage. I don't think you can underestimate that factor," he said.

Adding to his confidence is the fact that Hamid and his teammates are part of the generation that were crowned GCC champions at cadet level in 2005. "We are coming of age now," he said. "The other players are very good, there is no doubt about that, but we are going to give it everything we have this week." The finals for the team competition is to be held tomorrow, with Tuesday a rest day. Wednesday and Thursday see the players thrown back into the doubles and singles events.

"I have been doing well in training and played a few pro tournaments in the run up to this competition," said Hamid, who ranks second overall in the GCC. "I went to Japan to play in one tournament and was very pleased with how I performed, so I do feel confident. People on the circuit noticed me and started to ask questions and I feel that I gained valuable experience there." And Hamid is not just thinking of this week's championship. "We are very ambitious and that is a very good thing," said the player. "We have a long-term plan."

The Asian Championship in India in October is one part of that plan, and Hamid, though naturally a confident athlete, knows what a big task the UAE face at a tournament featuring the might of China, Korea and Japan. "For us, going to play in the Asian Championship is like the UAE football team going to play in the Copa Libertadores in South America," said Hamid. "It's not easy for us in Asia, but we are aiming for it and we will do our best, but we know we have a mountain to climb."

The team will also have the 2010 Asian Games in China in their sights, but before all of that, there is the small matter of the GCC Championship to be dealt with. "We are ready for this," said Hamid. "It's important for us to win now because we haven't won at this tournament since 2005 and that is what we are focusing on for the next week." @Email:stregoning@thenational.ae