Many pupils and students got the chance to engage in less traditional sports activities for the first time
Fencing, polo and Kabaddi: children get in on the fun at Dubai Fitness Challenge
Youngsters across Dubai have been swapping sums and science for sport to learn about the importance of staying fighting fit.
More than 2,000 free events have been held as part of the second annual Dubai Fitness Challenge — which kicked off on October 26 and crosses the finish line on Saturday — and schools have been happy to take up the baton.
While traditional pursuits such as running and cycling have been on offer, many educators in the emirate have reaped rich rewards by going off the beaten track.
Shahed Abusall, a Grade 7 pupil at Gems Al Barsha National School for Girls, has been en garde for fencing.
After the eleven-year-old picked up a sabre for her first foray into fencing, she decided she wanted to take up the sport.
“Learning about the history of fencing was fun and interesting,” she said.
Khatera Al Tayer, a 11-year-old pupil at the same school, enjoyed fencing so much that she plans to continue competing after the challenge is over.
“I like the fact that when you are playing, you use all your muscles and strength. Before I fenced, I didn’t know much about it,” she said.
Sarah Albouhy, an Egyptian pupil, 10, said that though she was apprehensive at first, she enjoyed the game.
Aya Al Sayegh, another seventh grader, believes fencing is an activity many women in the country can participate in.
“It takes concentration but is fun,” she said.
“I feel like it’s a sport I can continue in the future because even if you wear a hijab you can continue it. It’s good to do something different form the common sports though it requires a lot of thought and action,” she said.
The festival of fitness, which was enjoyed by nearly one million people last year, encourages people to take part in exercise for 30 minutes a day, for 30 days.
Pupils and students have relished the chance to try out a wide variety of activities.
Little ones at Hartland International School raced while wearing superhero costumes, while Kabaddi matches were played at the Indian High School.
Mohammed Al Suwaidi, an Emirati architecture student at Amity University in Dubai, has been riding horses since he was seven but never had the chance to play polo.
Mohammed fell in love with the game the first time he played it during Dubai Fitness Challenge.
“Polo was something new for me and I was really looking forward to it. I was scared and excited when I started the game, but now I am encouraged to learn more about the game and continue to play it,” he said.
A team from Amity University played a game against a side from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.
“We had a lot of fun practicing, and it was a new experience for us.
“We had to spend time with each other and anyone can get hurt during the game. It was an interesting game but we had to be safe while playing.”
Hartland International School in Dubai organised a 24-hour-long rowing challenge in which the teachers took part in order to motivate pupils.
Many staff members, from the school’s lifeguard to the head-teacher, got involved.
“There is a participation element to sports that often gets overlooked. If people come together as a group and commit to something, the effort can be really special.
“Our message is one of community and working towards a common purpose,” said Niall Statham, head of physical education at Hartland International School.
The teachers were part of one team and completed the challenge by rowing for 24 hours. None of the team members are rowers and will be rowing in shifts. While all must participate for a minimum of 15 minutes, some took part in the challenge for hours.
"We felt we had done many things for the pupils but we wanted them to know it’s not just about results. We wanted them to know that an ordinary group of teachers can come together and complete a challenge like this,” said Mr Statham.
Dubai Fitness Challenge concludes on Saturday, with a carnival at Burj Park.