2004. Shaikh Ahmad Mohammad Hasher Al Maktoum created history by winning the UAE's first Olympic medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Dubai: Shaikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum, the lone Olympic medallist from the UAE, has tipped countryman Saif Bin Futais as a future medal-winning prospect.

Shaikh Ahmadn, who won the double trap gold in Athens eight years ago, believes that Bin Futais has all the attributes to succeed on sport’s biggest stage.

“Going into the Olympics in 2004, I was among the favourites based solely on my ranking,” he told Gulf News in a freewheeling chat. “The same applies to Saif [Bin Futais] as he has been at the top of the rankings over the past few years.

“Saif is right up there in the rankings and he has been showing all the signs that I showed on my way to being an Olympic Champion.”

Two years ago, Bin Futais won the skeet shooting World Cup in Larnaca, Cyprus to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics where, however, he skeet competition, have missed the qualifying cut.

Bin Futais is also a winner of the ‘Best Athlete Award’ and the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum for Sports Creativity Award.

Looking back at his career, Shaikh Ahmad, a former squash champion, had nothing but words of praise for his former squash coach Abbas Khan,

“Over the years I had learnt so much, not just in sport but in life as well,” he said. “Whatever I learnt from Abbas during my fundamental years, I passed on the entire knowledge to Peter (Wilson)”, his shooting coach.

“My thinking was simple – if Abbas could teach me to be a champion, then I can teach the same stuff to Peter or anyone for that matter, and they could be champions as well.

“In shooting, one needs mental strength besides the physical fitness. Then comes talent which is 50 per cent. The gun is 20 per cent and the remaining 30 per cent is physical fitness. And that is what Abbas gave me. I owe it to him,” he added,

“One of the main reasons I won in Athens is due to the physical fitness. Of course I trained hard, but in the end it all came down to fitness. I can safely say that the UAE would not have had an Olympic gold medallist if it was not for Abbas Khan.”

Khan remained modest and replied: “Every teacher wants the best for his students. Shaikh Ahmad deserves everything that he has achieved in his sporting career.

“He is a true example for any sportsperson to follow and do even better. I was only the teacher, and it was left up to him to follow what I instructed. He has done well and deserves each and every accolade that he has earned,”

Khan first came to the UAE in 1980 when squash was a popular sport among expatriates and Emiratis. He played in an exhibition tournament organized by the UAE Squash and Racquets Association, and two years later, he accepted the offer as coach with the Dubai Police.

In 1984, he watched a young Shaikh Ahmad play badminton at the Dubai Police Officers Club. “One day, Shaikh Ahmad walked across to me and told me he wanted to play squash,” Khan recollected.

“I agreed but on one condition - that if he missed even once class I would quit.”

Nothing of this sort happened as Shaikh Ahmad went on to be become a 10-time UAE national champion. “I knew that Abbas was a professional to the core and all that he was doing was for my growth as a sportsman. So whatever he told me I just did,” said Shaikh Ahmad. “There were simply too many positives in just being with him during those years.

“Those were like the wonder years for me. He taught and I learnt willingly. The most important aspect that came through to me was respect for a teacher. Both of us were adults. He had his training methods and I had the option of either willingly accepting all that he was teaching me or just walking away. I chose to stay and learn,” he admitted.

Then in March 1997, Shaikh Ahmad famously announced he was quitting squash altogether and chasing a fresh dream – an Olympic gold medal in shooting for the UAE.

“After I left squash I had no difficulty in my fitness training while preparing for my new life as a professional shooter,” he said. |Things came much easier to me on and off the shooting range only because of what I had experienced with Abbas during all those formative years.

“I feel that one of the reasons I was unbeatable on the shooting range was because of what I had assimilated through a regimen that brought out the best in me.”