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UAE’s only Olympic champion calls for overhaul

Poor performance at Olympics is a wake up call, says UAE gold medallist

Shaikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Shaikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum
Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE’s only ever Olympic Champion has called for a complete rethink over the country’s selection system if it is to have future champions.

Shaikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum, a 2004 Athens gold medallist, told Gulf News: “Any sportsman who goes abroad to represent the country should be there to do the flag proud and not to embarrass the UAE.

“I have been to a fair number of international shooting competitions during my career as a shooter, and each time I went the idea was to ensure I won something so that the UAE flag could flutter. But after what we did in London at the Olympic Games, all the sports bodies and people in charge should seriously think about who they are sending to represent the country.”

Shaikh Ahmad, who retired from competing a couple of years ago, is now the coach of Shaikh Juma Bin Dalmook Al Maktoum, who qualified for the London Games. He also doubled up as coach to Great Britain’s Peter Wilson, who won gold in the double-trap shooting.

The eight-strong UAE delegation to the 2012 Games — aside from the men’s football, who held their own impressively — generally struggled, with nobody even coming close to adding to the UAE’s Olympic medal tally.

“This is the time to wake up for us all. Peter did it because he was keen. He was a fantastic student. He listened to everything I told him and implemented it on the shooting range. But our shooters in the UAE do not have the same disposition. We need to change some things here, and if we don’t then I don’t see too many good things happening when the Rio de Janeiro Games come by,” Shaikh Ahmad predicted.

He also affirmed that the lack of medals and glory for the UAE does not have anything to do with the funding or facilities here. “We have everything here to get more Olympic medals or international glory. In the past 16 years we have spent millions on the same set of shooters, and what have we got in return from them?” he said.

“I would suggest that we do a complete rethink on our policy of selecting athletes for an international competition. If I am put in charge I will make sure that anyone who does not reach a particular standard does not even board the plane to represent the UAE.

“But are our shooters willing to be professional in their approach? Are they willing to make the sacrifices as professional athletes? Are they willing to put their country before self? All these questions need to be answered and only then can the UAE hope to get recognition on the international stage.

“As an athlete, I have proved international success is possible and now Peter (Wilson) has proved me right as a coach. We have the right ingredients. We only need to rethink on certain areas to get the rest of it in order. And we need to do it now before it is too late.”