Dubai: Obaid Al Jasmi has fond memories of the Fina World Swimming Championships (25m) in Dubai last year and not just because he and his brothers Saeed, Bakhit and Faisal made history by becoming the first set of brothers to compete together in the short course worlds when they represented the UAE in the 4x100m freestyle relay. Speaking to XPRESS ahead of the Fina/Arena Swimming World Cup which will be held at the same Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Sports Complex on Friday and Saturday, the 30-year-old revealed why the event in December, 2010 was so important to the UAE.
"That was a landmark event for I believe it brought about a significant change in the mentality of the UAE swimmers. Competing against the world's best gives you an idea of where you are and what you have to do. Since that event last December, every UAE swimmer that I speak to wants to become a champion," he said.
The UAE swimming torchbearer, who will be gunning for his third Olympics in London next year, added: "Earlier it used to be Obaid and others, now there are more swimmers ready to take on the mantle like Mubarak Al Besher. There are more Emiratis coming to this sport thanks to events like these and I believe that the next generation of UAE swimmers will be better than us."
On a more personal note, Al Jasmi said that he would love to make it to his third Olympics. "I was the first Emirati to make a major final back in 2007. I hope to be in a final at the London Olympics as well, hopefully in my pet event, the 100m butterfly, besides also competing in the 200m IM and the 100m freestyle," he said.
While the London Olympics is still some way off, the focus currently, according to UAE coach Jay Benner, is on the GCC swimming championships in Bahrain in two weeks time before the big one, the Pan Arab Games in Doha in December. "We have about eight to nine swimmers here who will be testing themselves against the world's best. It will be a good experience for them. The idea is to improve their timings in time for the two upcoming events," he said, adding: "We will have Emirati swimmers competing in all seven world cup events, so that will be great exposure to them."
Velimir's packed schedule
Dubai-based Serb swimmer Velimir Stjepanovic is expected to participate in seven events, when he hits the water at the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Sports Complex this weekend.
The teenager, who has already secured a place on the Serbian team for the 2012 London Olympic Games, says he will use this opportunity to work on his aerobic fitness, turns and starts, as he prepares for the 2011 European Swimming Championships in Poland, later this year.
"These next few competitions that I am doing are mainly in preparation for the European championships in Poland," he said.
"The four competitions [Dubai, Stockholm, Moscow & Berlin] that I am going to are all short course meets, and the Olympics is a long course event. This is more about preparation and a good chance to work on my turns, starts and fitness. JS
The UAE Swimming Federation has signed a three-year contract with Fina to have the swimming world cup in Dubai, with the 2012 edition expected to be in the middle of the seven-event series, while the 2013 edition is expected to feature the final event. Plans are also afoot to have four continental (Asian) events next year at the complex.