Dubai: The UAE will send a record 26 athletes including its football team to participate in this month’s London Olympic Games.
The squad for the 2012 London Games was finally in place after Alia Saeed Mohammad fell short of qualifying by a mere second in the 5,000m run for women at an accredited athletics meeting held in Germany over the weekend, bringing the curtain down on the UAE’s chances of having a third athlete at the Games.
The football team forms the major part of the contingent with the list of 18 players to be named by coach Mehdi Ali following the conclusion of their external training camp that is being held in Linz, Austria.
Much is expected of the football team as they open their campaign in Group A against Uruguay on July 26, followed by their second match against hosts Great Britain and their final match against African qualifiers Senegal on August 1. Coach Mehdi Ali has maintained that an entry into the knock-out stages is possible provided the team can notch one victory and a draw from their three preliminary rounds matches.
The UAE also has a lot of hope pinned on its team of three shooters consisting of Shaikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum in the skeet, Shaikh Juma Bin Dalmouk Al Maktoum in the double trap and Dhaher Al Aryani in the trap.
Going in on the back of being crowned champion at the season-ending ISSF World Cup Final held in Al Ain at the end of last year, Shaikh Saeed perhaps holds the best chance. However, Shaikh Juma too is capable of going one better than the silver medal that he won at the 2010 Asian Games held in Guangzhou, China.
Then come the two athletes — Mohammad Abbas in the triple jump and Betlhem Belayneh Deslagn in the women’s 1,500m.
The UAE also has due representation with one athlete each in the men’s swimming, women’s weightlifting and men’s judo.
Mubarak Al Beshir will make his Olympic debut in the men’s 100m breaststroke, teenager Khadija Mohammad will compete in the women’s 75kg weightlifting and Hameed Al Derei will participate in the men’s 66kg judo competition.
The entire UAE squad could not be confirmed till Sunday as one of the girls Alia Saeed Mohammad was attempting to qualify as the third athlete for the country in the women’s 5,000m. However, Alia Saeed missed the B Standard time of 15.30 minutes by a mere second even though she finished in third place at an international athletic meeting held in Germany.
However, the London Olympics has been quite an achievement for the UAE as they have managed to obtain direct qualification for an Olympic Games for the first time ever in its history.