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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 July 2018

Mirza says winning a medal at the Asian Games 'can make a huge difference' for cycling in the UAE

Emirati was speaking at the launch of the UAE Team Emirates Youth Academy at Dubai Sports World on Tuesday

Emirati cyclist Yousif Mirza at the launch of the UAE Team Emirates Youth Academy at the Dubai Sports World. Antonie Robertson / The National
Emirati cyclist Yousif Mirza at the launch of the UAE Team Emirates Youth Academy at the Dubai Sports World. Antonie Robertson / The National

Yousif Mirza is targeting winning a medal at the Asian Games in Indonesia to make up for the heartache of missing out on his two previous attempts.

The UAE Team Emirates rider narrowly missed out on a podium finish when finishing fourth at both Guangdong, China, in 2010, and in South Korea four years later.

Mirza, 29, is making his third appearance at the Games and is targeting medals in both the road race and the omnium at the continental games taking place in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.

“Everyone has an objective for the year and for me to win a medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta is my main goal,” Mirza said during the launch of the UAE Team Emirates Youth Academy at Dubai Sports World on Tuesday.

“I won the Asian Championship in Malaysia in February in 2018. It will be a similar field at the Asian Games, I believe. But of course it’s a new race and a lot may have changed.

“I have been dreaming about an Asian Games medal since my first appearance in 2010.

“In 2014 I was sure I would win and again missed out on it. So this time I want to win. I think an Asian Games medal can make a huge difference for the sport here in the UAE.”

Mirza recalled missing out in Incheon in 2014, saying his inexperience cost him.

“I broke away too early and they were all following me in the last 15 kilometres or so,” he said.

“I pressed a bit too hard and paid the price. This time I don’t want to repeat that mistake; I feel I’m more experienced and better prepared.”

Mirza said his improvement since joining the UAE Team Emirates when the team was founded two years ago will boost his chances of success at the Games.

“I did a lot of races this season and that has put me in a good shape to compete at the Asian level," he said.

“I suffered a crash last week in Slovenia and needed a little time to recover. I started training just two days ago but will be in the best of shape for the Japan Cup on Sunday.

“The Japan Cup will be my final race before the Asian Games. From there, I’ll be leaving for Italy to train with my colleagues in the UAE Team Emirates and then I do a tour in Holland. From there I will fly straight to Indonesia for the Asian Games.”

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Commenting on the UAE Team Emirates Youth Academy, which will run as part of the official Dubai Sports World Summer Camp programme from July 8-29, Mirza said he hoped it would attract more young Emiratis to cycling.

“It’s a big step forward and I was very excited when I heard about the pathway created for the next generation of cyclists,” he said.

“Of course, like every sport, cycling too needs time but this is a good start. This programme is a great way to help youngsters get into cycling and doing it indoors means they can get fit and stay healthy even during our hot summer months.”

The three-week initiative – which targets boys and girls age 11-16 - coincides with the Tour de France, which runs from July 7-29.

Joining Mirza at the launch was his UAE Team Emirates teammate Vegard Stake Laengen, who competed in last year’s Tour de France and was recently crowned Norway's Road Race champion.

“The Tour de France is one of the biggest sporting spectacles on the planet and the most demanding race for a pro cyclist to compete in,” he said.

“We wanted to use the excitement around this year’s event to inspire young people from across the UAE to join our Youth Academy and try out indoor cycling. Who knows, maybe this is where we find the next Yousif Mirza.”