Shaikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, UAE shooter. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

London: The UAE’s lone Olympic gold medallist Shaikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum is expecting the Gulf countries to make a statement at the shooting competition during the 2012 London Olympic Games.

“We have the best possible chance to make a strong statement on the international stage as the Gulf region during these Olympic Games. We have the strongest group of shooters and most of them look like medal hopefuls to me — going by the form they are carrying,” Shaikh Ahmad told Gulf News at the Royal Artillery Barracks here on Sunday.

The UAE has pinned their medal hopes on Shaikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum in the skeet competition, while Shaikh Juma Bin Dalmouk Al Maktoum stands a chance in the double trap and Daher Al Aryani in the trap.

But there are a host of other shooters from the Gulf nations who have time and again popped up on the international shooting scene in recent months. Leading the pack of Gulf shooters is rallying champion Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar as he participates in the skeet along with Kuwaiti Abdullah Al Rashidi, Majid Al Tamimi of Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s Shaikh Saeed.

“There will be a lot of nerves and the most important thing for all shooters will be to keep cool and calm and shoot steady. I don’t expect the weather to hold up all the while, so there needs to be some sort of adapting to be done in case it starts raining or blowing,” Shaikh Ahmad said.

“Shaikh Saeed has been shooting well and I expect him to hold firm and carry this form through when the first round of qualifying starts tomorrow [Monday],” he added.

Strong Gulf presence

Shaikh Saeed has been pitted in the third squad starting at 9am (12 noon UAE) along with Al Rashidi, Al Tamimi, Jakub Tomecek of the Czech Republic, Nikolaos Mavrommatis of Greece and Cypriot Antonakis Andreou. “He [Shaikh Saeed] is our best medal hope, and it all depends how well he shoots in the opening two rounds,” Shaikh Ahmad said.

The men’s double trap that will be held on August 2 has a strong Gulf presence with Kuwait’s Fahad Al Deehani and Oman’s Ahmad Al Hatmi in the fray in Squad 1, while the UAE’s Shaikh Juma will be joined by Qatar’s Rashid Al Athba in Squad 2.

“My main focus in the past few days has been to keep his [Shaikh Juma] nerves calm. He has been confident and shooting well during practice, but he needs to keep up his consistency,” Shaikh Ahmad said.

The trap competition too has four shooters, two from Kuwait: Talal Al Rashidi and Fahad Al Deehani, along with Al Aryani and Rashid Al Athba of Qatar. “I can see our shooters from the Gulf doing well this year. I think this is our best chance at an Olympic Games,” he added.

The qualifying in skeet will be held over two days, Monday and Tuesday with a 9am start followed by the finals between the top six shooters from 2pm (5pm UAE) on Tuesday.