Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 September 2020

UAE great sporting moments - No 1: Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher shoots his way to gold at 2004 Olympics

Emirati remains the only UAE athlete to win a Games gold medal

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Every day over three weeks, The National looks back at the 21 greatest moments in UAE sports history.

When a heart condition pushed Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher into retirement just a few months shy of the 2012 Olympics, he felt hurt.

“If it was my decision to stop, it would not be a big deal, but I am forced,” he said.

So the fire was still burning. After delivering the UAE their greatest ever Olympic moment in Athens in 2004, he had feared it might have been extinguished.

“To win a gold medal is both good and bad,” the UAE’s lone Olympic champion said subsequently.

“Good is you have won a gold. Bad is you won't be so interested in the sport.

“When I won the Olympics and the world championship, I had everything. There's nothing to work for.”

To say that gold in the double-trap shooting event in Athens was the culmination of a life’s work might not be entirely accurate. A life’s passion more like.

His father and grandfather had been fine shooters, and he inherited the obsession. Where other children might sleep with a favourite cuddly toy, he would have a new gun beside him.

“I loved shooting when I was a kid and would leave my bike to get rusty but clean my gun every day,” he told The National after retiring, aged 48, in January 2012.

He competed in both the trap and double-trap events at Sydney in 2000, falling short of the final in each.

Four years later, though, he was at his peak. He finished fourth in the single trap event, then trounced the competition in the double trap, winning with an Olympic record-equalling score of 189.

The crowning moment remains in all its glory on YouTube.

He raises his double-barrelled shotgun and takes aim at targets emerging from traps either side of a shooting range.

Then the two luminous orange clays dissolve into puffs of dust, and Sheikh Ahmed kisses the barrel of his Beretta shotgun, before embracing his rivals.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher displays his medal after winning the UAE's first ever gold in 2004.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher displays his medal after winning the UAE's first ever gold in 2004.

The UAE’s finest ever Olympian said when he ended his competitive shooting career that he hoped to inspire and even coach a new generation to follow his success.

He made a great success of that, too, although by an unexpected route.

Instead of bringing through a new Emirati star in his image, he made a champion out of a farmer’s son from England’s south west.

When Peter Wilson won gold in a tense double trap final in 2012, it gave palpitations for his coach – who had six months earlier given up competing himself as finishes like that were not good for his health.

Wilson was the world record holder in the discipline at the time, but still termed his Dubai-based coach as “the greatest double trap shot of all-time”.

Eight years on, he remains the UAE’s greatest ever Olympian, too.

Updated: July 20, 2020 07:22 AM

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