x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE table tennis hope has eyes on 2012 Olympics

Missing on a chance at the GCC Championships to secure a qualification spot, Rashid Abdul Hamid of the UAE still has a few more chances to punch his ticket.

Rashid Abdul Hamid has not lost sight of his goal - a 2012 Olympic spot in London.
Rashid Abdul Hamid has not lost sight of his goal - a 2012 Olympic spot in London.

DUBAI // The GCC Championships cannot come soon enough for Rashid Abdul Hamid as he looks for redemption after his disappointment in the West Asia qualifiers for the 2012 Olympics.

Hamid, the UAE's top table tennis player, finished second to Kuwait's Ibrahem Al Hasan in the qualifiers held in Dubai last month. Al Hasan went through the tournament unbeaten to book the single qualification spot from among 14 participants for the London Games.

Hamid's Olympic dream, however, remains alive as he can still qualify through the Asian qualification, scheduled to be held in Hong Kong from April 19-22 next year, and the final world qualification event a month later.

In the meantime, Hamid has turned his focus to winning gold at the Gulf Championships, which start in Bahrain on July 21. His loss in Dubai has not dampened his confidence.

"On the individual level, I think I am going to get two gold medals minimum," Hamid said. "We are hoping for three gold medals from the championships. We have a very strong team, with players like Rashid Mohammad and Jasem Linjawy, so we have a very good chance. "

The country's table tennis squad is training in South Korea for the tournament and the 23 year old left for Seoul on Tuesday night to join them.

The tournament will give Hamid a chance to renew his rivalry with Al Hasan, the only man to beat the Emirati at the West Asian qualifiers. He lost twice to the Kuwaiti, 3-1 in the group stages and 4-2 in the eight-player second stage, which was played on a round-robin basis to decide the champion.

"For me, the most important thing is I tried," Hamid said. "If I had not tried hard and lost, then it's an issue for me. If I have given my best, I have to accept defeats just as I accept wins."

Hamid admits he might have been undone by nerves.

"I think I was very tense," he said. "I was probably trying too hard to win and lost some easy points. I was leading in most of the games.

"From [scores] 1-1 and 6-2 [in one game], I lost. The game after that was 9-6 for me and I lost. If I had won those two, it would have been 3-1 for me, and then I just had to win one more to finish the game.

"It's like [Roger] Federer - he was leading 2-0 [against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in their Wimbledon quarter-final] and lost."

Al Hasan is the first qualifier to confirm his place in the London Games. He joins the top 28 players from the men's world rankings, who have earned a direct entry.

The men's single competition will have 72 competitors at the Olympics, the others will come through regional qualifiers.

No country can have more than two participants in the men's singles competition, which means players from Asia's table tennis heavyweights such as China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea will not be able to participate in the qualifiers as they have already filled their quota through ranked players.

Hamid believes these rule changes give amateur players, such as himself, a realistic hope of qualifying.

"With the new system, we have more chances," he said. "In 2008, the rule was that three players from each country could play, so we had players such as Zhang Jike [the world No 4] and Oh Sang-eun [the world No 12] playing.

"This time, there are no top players playing the qualifications, so we still have a chance."

Aside from his opponents, Hamid is also having to overcome a taxing daily routine. A resident of Dubai, he works for Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi and the commute leaves him little time for sports.

"My target [for qualification] was this summer," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen now due to my work and other stuff.

"It is really tough working and playing. So I am not going to play as I used to play before. Or, maybe, I will play a lot. I don't know. We still have 10 months ... Maybe it is not in my destiny to go to 2012 or maybe God wants me to qualify from the Asian tournament. We will just have to wait and see what's going to happen."