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Jay Benner: Back with a splash

After a forced sabbatical in the US, swim coach is ready to propel the UAE's best into uncharted waters of success

Jay Benner
Image Credit: Xpress /Karen Dias
Jay Benner

Dubai:  The UAE's top swimmer Obaid Al Jasmi has found the coach he was looking for as he prepares to fly the host nation's flag at the 10th Fina World Swimming Championship (25m) and the Guangzhou Asian Games prior to that. Jay Benner, who helped him break more than 14 UAE records and about five Gulf records during his stint with the UAE national team in 2007-08 is back at the helm and is hoping his star ward can at least make it to the semi-finals of his favourite event, the 100m individual medley, when the Dubai event gets under way on December 15.

Talking to XPRESS, the American said: "I travelled with Obaid to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and we get along very well. There was really good progress when I was here the last time and I am excited to be back again in this role."

So what made him return to Dubai?

"I had to go back home in 2008 due to my daughter's illness. She is eight and she had been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since one. She is better now and I can concentrate on my job once more. And since I had been here before and with such a major event coming, I thought it was a good time to return," said the man who was part of the USA coaching squad at the Pan-Am Games in 2003 and the World University Games in 2005.

Benner revealed that he will be accompanying the UAE's top four swimmers for a one-month training camp to Berlin which will be followed by the World Cup event there and another in Moscow, before returning in November. "There will be a test event from November 5-6 at the new complex for the world championship after which we will be going to the Asian Games. On return we will again go abroad for training for about three weeks before the event starts," he said.

A packed calendar for the UAE swimmers and Benner is hoping to get the best out of the pack despite what he considers a tall order. "It's a pretty difficult task with all the world's top swimmers participating. But I will be happy if any of them make it into the top 16," he said.

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