Like many of the girls participating in the Abu Dhabi Fencing Championship, 16-year-old Fatima Zahra al Hosani would like to reach the Olympics one day.
Just a dodge, parry and thrust away
ABU DHABI // For Fatima Zahra al Hosani, it was a small step towards her ambitions of representing the UAE in the Olympics.
The 16-year-old Emirati from the Dubai Fencing Centre reached the final of the inaugural Under 20 Girls' Abu Dhabi Fencing Championship, and despite going down to Rita Tarnallyay of Hungary 15-9, she was delighted with her performance.
"This is only my second competition ever after training for five years, and I'm very happy with what I achieved today," she said. "It is a very small step forward for my dream of representing my country in the Olympics, God willing."
Al Hosani had to overcome three other opponents before coming up against Tarnallyay, who was a year-older and a head taller.
"To reach the final was an achievement for me," al Hosani said. "We need to have more such competitions to gain more experience. It is not only for me, there were quite a number of Emirati girls in this competition, and like me, all of them enjoyed just being in a competition, leave aside winning."
"I train for 90 minutes, five days a week, and now I feel I must participate in more competition.
"That's the only way to get motivated and also to know how much I have progressed. I had a great day in Abu Dhabi and I hope there will be more such competitions, not only in Abu Dhabi but all over the UAE."
Tanallyay, a student of Gems World Academy in Dubai, is also is hoping to continue in the sport once she returns to her native Hungary.
It is the second time Tanallyay has taken home a trophy, having won a competition in Dubai in 2009.
"I had to wait a long time since winning my maiden competition in Dubai," she said. "Here, it was a very close final against Fatima.
"I picked up the sport from my neighbours back in Hungary and had the good fortune of finding a fencing school to continue it.
"My ambition is to continue participating in competitions when I get back home."
Irini Vanzijderveld-Paipai took the Under 13 final from her colleague, Sophie Rizk, from the Mihail Kozer Fencing Academy in Dubai by a score of 15-9.
The 10-year-old student at Jumeirah Primary School in Dubai has now won three gold medals in as many competitions.
"I watched fencing on TV and thought it was a really good sport," Vanzijderveld-Paipai said. "I started as a hobby and my mother, who is from Greece, encouraged me.
"The two competitions I won in Dubai didn't have as many participants as in this Abu Dhabi event. Here I had to go through four rounds to reach the final, so it was my biggest win. Sophie is my academy friend and this the second time I met her in a final."
According to Khawla al Muhairi, the head of the physical education section of the Family Development Foundation, the competition drew 75 entries in both age groups.
"The response was overwhelming for this inaugural event," she said. "We had schools and academies from Dubai, Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. This was a trial event and we hope to draw more schools from other areas in the country.
"It is the vision of our Chairperson Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak to provide the Emirati women with the opportunity to excel in sports and this is one the major steps forward because fencing is a potential Olympic medal winning sport."
The event was organised and conducted under the aegis of the UAE Fencing Federation and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.