x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Olympics: Medal hopeful is a man with great gun control

Sheikh Juma bin Dalmouk has been backed to reach the final of the double trap tomorrow, writes Paul Radley.

Sheikh Juma bin Dalmouk is known to have a strong character, and although quiet, he has been described as 'very, very competitive'. Eugene Hoshiko / AP Photo
Sheikh Juma bin Dalmouk is known to have a strong character, and although quiet, he has been described as 'very, very competitive'. Eugene Hoshiko / AP Photo

For four days last week, summertime briefly and belatedly arrived in London. The blue skies and sunshine came and went almost as soon as they had appeared, though. It is unclear whether they will return anytime soon.

The prevailing conditions at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich tomorrow are likely to be overcast at best, damp at worst. It is a long way removed from balmy days on the range in Nad Al Sheba.

Less than ideal conditions, then, for Sheikh Juma bin Dalmouk to begin his pursuit of the UAE's first final place at the games in the double trap, surely?

Not so. Keep the faith, says Rustam Yambulatov, the shooting coach of the Fazza team at Nad Al Sheba.

"Sheikh Juma has a very strong character," said Yambulatov, the veteran Uzbek who won a silver medal at his home Olympics in Moscow in 1980. "In Cyprus [at a competition earlier this year], it was four degrees and snowing. And the snow was not coming straight down, it was driving in from the side.

"He shot for a long time just in one, long-sleeved shirt, no jacket, and he shot in the final. A Russian won, but Russians are used to this weather.

"His character is so strong."

The portents are there for success tomorrow. There has already been Arabian Gulf joy at the shooting range this week after Nasser Al Attiyah claimed the third medal in Qatar's Olympic history when he took bronze in the skeet event on Tuesday.

And it is not just Arabic that Sheikh Juma has in common with Al Attiyah. As with the Qatari, who is a professional rally driver and won last year's Dakar Rally, shooting is not necessarily Sheikh Juma's first love.

He also excels in that other rich tradition of his family, endurance equestrianism. When he won gold in a double trap shooting event at the Asian Games, his colleagues from his other field of specialism were among his most vocal cheerleaders.

"Sheikh Juma is a versatile sportsman," Ali Al Muhairi, the racing manager of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid and a fellow member of the UAE's gold medal-winning endurance team, said back then. "As a person he is very quiet, but in sports, he is very, very competitive."

As well as his obvious natural aptitude for the sport, Sheikh Juma could barely have a better mentor in his discipline.

His emergence as a serious contender on the international stage has been overseen by Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher, whose double trap gold in Athens in 2004 remains the lone Olympic medal to have been won by the UAE to date.

If Sheikh Juma is to follow in his footsteps, his coach's fingerprints will be all over his achievement.

"I am the one who taught Sheikh Juma, I am the one who grabbed him from nowhere and guide him from A to Z," Sheikh Ahmed said earlier this year, after briefly severing ties with his protege.

Since being re-recruited to the UAE shooting team ahead of the trip to London, Sheikh Ahmed is back in harness with his 27 year old understudy. The gold medal winner from eight years ago has spent the lead-up to the event trying to relieve the pressure on Sheikh Juma and has cautioned against expecting too much from him.

However, a place in the final is not beyond the realms of possibility for him, according to Yambulatov, who made Kuwait a force on the world stage before moving to Dubai last year. "In my opinion he can go to the final," the former Soviet Union Olympian said. "If he shoots 146 that is a guaranteed final in the Olympics, and he can do that, no problem.

pradley@thenational.ae

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