x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

It's Saturday night fever as American Academy hosts Dubai Race Night

Emiratis and expatriates will race together as American Academy introduces Dubai Race Night, an exciting new series of athletics meetings.

DUBAI // Like most sports in the UAE, the expatriate community have traditionally been left to satisfy their own track and field whims, the Emirati populace have theirs, and never the twain shall meet.

However, the new series of open track meetings in Dubai, the Saturday evening races at the Dubai American Academy in Barsha, have already started to foster a bond between the two.

Dubai Race Night has been organised independently of the UAE Athletics Federation, whose raison d'etre is principally to prepare Emirati athletes for international competition.

Yet Ahmed al Kamali, the president of the UAE Athletics Federation, attended one of the first meetings and was impressed.

"[Dubai Race Night] is a fantastic idea," al Kamali said. "We are here to encourage and support that, even though we are not involved in it.

"I have told my colleagues to put some of our boys and girls into the competitions in the future. And I told them that if any of these athletes need assistance with coaching, then we don't mind.

"At the end of the day, sport is an international language. We have very good coaches, and if these boys need training programmes, we do not mind helping."

Al Kamali's offer will provide a major boost to a sport which has until now been run on an ad hoc basis beyond the sphere of schools and the national team.

Opportunities are limited, meaning the likes of Waahid Ally, the talented 16-year-old sprinter, can easily fall through the cracks.

According to Stephen Munnery, his school PE master, Ally has yet to be exposed to something as basic as electronic timing.

"I'd like to see him run in an official UAE meet run by the governing body, so he can get an electronically-timed PB [personal best] which would qualify him to compete if he so desired," Munnery said.

"He has run these times without blocks, just turned up and run. He is so raw, but he has bucketloads of talent.

"I'd like to see him race in a sanctioned event against national squad runners, where the IAAF, (track and field's world governing body), would recognise it so he could enter World Junior Championships and things like that."

The organisers of Dubai Race Night are happy to have built up a firm relationship with the senior athletics bosses already.

"I wanted to set something up in Dubai because there is nothing going on in terms of athletics for expatriates at the moment," Lisa Campbell, one of the co-founders, said.

"What the [UAE Athletics Federation] do is only for nationals, but they have said they will send people down. They liked our set up if they are willing to send their athletes down who are looking to be in the next Olympics. That was nice to hear."