Dubai: The UAE is confident of returning with “at least eight to nine medals” from the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games to be held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan later this month.
The UAE National Olympic Committee (UAE NOC) had last month announced its squad representing in seven sporting disciplines. The 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games — also counted as the Fifth Asian Indoor Games — will be held in the former Soviet Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan from September 17 to 27.
The event will feature a total of 21 sports, including five Olympic disciplines (cycling, equestrian, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling) and another five Olympic sports contested only in non-Olympic formats (basketball, athletics, football, swimming and tennis). Above all these there will be another eleven non-Olympic sports, namely bowling, chess, cue sports, dancesport, jiu-jitsu, kick-boxing, kurash, muaythai, sambo, belt wrestling and traditional wrestling.
The UAE squad comprises a total of 56 athletes in track and field, billiards, bowling, cycling, chess, jiu-jitsu and futsal, while another 40 persons including officials, coaches and support staff have also been cleared to make the trip.
Dawood Al Hajeri, Acting General Secretary, UAE NOC will be the chef de mission, while Abdul Malik Jani will be the President of the UAE delegation.
“Eight to nine medals that would include three to four gold, could be a realistic goal for the UAE this time,” Jani told Gulf News.
“All athletes who have been selected this time have made the grade considering their performances and form during the past one year. And we feel that the jiu-jitsu, athletics, cycling and billiards can fetch us some medals,” he added.
The Jiu-Jitsu squad has been performing consistently since the past few months, and recently the team returned with 21 medals, including ten gold, from the Second Asian Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Hanoi, Vietnam. Alia Saeed Mohammad will run the 1,500m and 3,000m, while the duo of Saoud Al Za’abi and Mayouf Hassan will both participate in the 800 metres. “She [Alia] is the Asian champion and in July she won two gold medals at the Arab Championships. She will be expected to do well this time too,” Jani noted.
In July, Alia won silver in the 5,000m at the Asian Games in Bhubaneshwar and followed this up with two gold medals in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the Arab Athletics Championships in Tunisia. After that, the 26-year-old athlete abstained from participating in the 2017 London IAAF World Championships to nurse an ankle injury and continue preparations for the Asian Indoor Games.
The UAE challenge in cycling will be led by ace Yousuf Mirza along with another four riders. By far the most experienced, Mirza became the first Emirati to ride for a UCI WorldTeam after being signed on by the UAE Abu Dhabi Team for 2017. And after extensive training at the team base in San Pellegrino in Southern Italy, Mirza has been in the UAE with other members of the squad preparing for the Games.
In Ashgabat, Mirza will participate in the Omnium and then combine with Ahmad Al Mansouri, Mohammad Al Mansouri and Mohammad Al Baloushi for the Team Pursuit. Nasser Al Mamarri, the fifth member on the squad, will take part in the 200 metres sprint and Kirin.
Most of the athletes are scheduled to leave from the UAE on September 15, while the futsal team will departing today [Tuesday] as they start their campaign from Group B along with Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan and the Maldives. The 18 teams in the preliminary rounds have been divided into two groups of five and another two of four teams, with the top two from each advancing to the quarter-finals. The UAE play their first preliminary round match against the Maldives on Saturday [September 16].
Athletics: 3 (Alia Saeed Mohammad; Saoud Al Za’abi, Mayouf Hassan)
Billiards & Snooker: 5 (Salah Al Ranawi; Omran Salem in Billiards. Mohammad Al Joker; Khalid Al Kamali; Abdul Rahman Al Shamsi in Snooker)
Bowling: 4 (Shaker Ali; Mahmoud Al Attar; Mohammad Al Marzouqi; Basil Zioudi)
Cycling: 5 (Yousuf Mirza; Mohammad Al Mansouri; Ahmad Al Mansouri; Nasser Mamarri; Mohammad Al Baloushi)
Chess: 4 — 2 men and 2 women (Jassim Al Ali, Othman Ebrahim; Wadeema Al Kalbani; Wafia Al Mamarri)
Jiu-Jitsu: 21: 14 men and 7 women