x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Young Emirati athletes inspired by Dubai Olympic 2024 bid

Young athletes say Dubai Olympic bid inspires them to go for gold and they hope to become a big hit by the time 2024 arrives.

Rashid Hassan Musabeh trains for his upcoming amateur bout.
Rashid Hassan Musabeh trains for his upcoming amateur bout.

DUBAI // Rashid Hassan Musabih has not been a boxer for long, but he has already set his sights on a gold medal at the 2024 Olympic Games.

The 18-year-old, who will be 30 by the time the Games begin, says knowing Dubai is considering a bid to be the host city makes him even hungrier for gold.

"It really makes me want to train harder and get better. I want to make my family and my country proud," said Musabih, who will compete in his first amateur fight tomorrow.

Although he has only been training for a few months, the young Emirati has impressed his coach. "He is a very fast learner, I think he will be an excellent boxer," said Kouam Claude, who once trained the Cameroon Olympic boxing team.

"He has skills, but more than that, he has heart, and that makes the difference between a good fighter and a great fighter. I see him having a very bright career in boxing."

Tam Khan, who owns and runs Contender Mixed Martial Arts Centre in Dubai, where Rashid trains, says there is plenty of Emirati talent that can be developed in the next 12 years.

"We have the talent here - I've seen it in my kids' classes," said Khan, who trains eight Emiratis aged between seven and 10 in boxing, kick-boxing, wrestling and jiujitsu.

"If any of my students dedicated themselves and put in the time and work, there is no reason they couldn't compete at Olympic level."

Another rising Emirati sports star, who might be vying for a spot on an Olympics podium, is Zahra Lari.

The 17-year-old figure skater, who trains at Zayed Sports City (ZSC) in the capital, is preparing to compete in the next winter Olympics in South Korea. "We have seen an increase in interest in figure skating since Zahra began representing the country," said Maria Gedeon, the director of marketing at ZSC.

"We also have seen some prospects in Emirati tennis players. We have two young Emiratis with very high potential.

"It takes a lot of commitment to be able to compete at an international level," she added. "You have to train at least 24 hours a week. But it's not just that, you have to stay healthy and live healthy. It's important to stay fit and get your act together and dedicate long hours of hard work."

Parents play a big role in the development of an athlete too, she said. "There has to be that physical and moral support at home, if they are going to have any chance."