Dubai: A top Dubai Sports Council (DSC) official has expressed hope the city’s hosting of the 9th Asian Swimming Championships from today will encourage the authorities to give greater backing to the sports involved.
The continent’s top swimmers, divers, synchronised swimmers and water polo players will be in action at the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Sports Complex between today and November 25. DSC Secretary-General Dr Ahmad Saad Al Sharif hopes the exposure will eventually lead to UAE athletes winning international watersport medals.
“If swimming is given due attention, the UAE can start winning gold medals at the Gulf and Arab level, followed by the international stage,” Al Sharif told media at the official launch of the championships yesterday.
“The Dubai Sports Council has been doing all it can in its own way to back such smaller sporting events, but it is not enough. We need the authorities to support and sponsor activities other than football so that we can seriously think about medals for the UAE.”
The DSC official, who is also the chairman of the championships’ organising committee, stressed that there needs to be a shift in thinking with regards to sports in the country.
“The other sports such as football easily get sponsorship, but for a sport like swimming, which has the potential of winning medals, there is very little support. We can achieve quite a bit in swimming, should the support be there,” he said.
The 9th Asian Swimming Championships will get underway today. The championships will be split into four separate competitions — swimming and synchronised swimming (November 15 to 18), water polo (November 19 to 25) and diving (November 22 to 25).
Dr Al Sharif admitted that swimming has not received due recognition in the past. However, some two years back each of the five clubs in Dubai got upgraded swimming pools and facilities so as to raise the level of the sport here.
“It may have been a sort of neglected sport, but today it is a very important sport in the development of a young generation. And we have ensured the technical development and progress goes hand in hand with infrastructure development,” he said.
Leading the challenge in the swimming pool will be four-time Olympic medallist Sun Yang of China, who participates in three events in the 11-day competition that has attracted more than 700 athletes from 30 countries.
“Swimmers from South Korea and Japan will be our main challengers, but that won’t stop me from going for gold medals in all three events,” Yang said.
“Given the fact that this is my first competition in many weeks, we may see a few Asian records broken.”
Taha Al Kishry, President of the Asian Swimming Federation, said: “The high point of this championship is that there will four different sports disciplines contested under one roof, and this in itself is a challenge. Among the competitors we have Olympic medallists and we can expect some surprises along the way.”