ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Sports Council have signalled their intent to produce an Olympic medal-winning prospect by setting up five elite training centres in the sports where they think they have the best chance - wrestling, judo, boxing and fencing.
The aim of the project is to encourage more Emirati participation in the disciplines, provide expert coaching and eventually nurture talented athletes capable of competing with the world's best in their sport at future Asian Games and Olympic tournaments.
"This is the first step, but we have very large-scale plans to develop the four sporting disciplines," said Mohammed al Mahmoud, the general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), during yesterday's launch at the Abu Dhabi Country Club.
"We have tied up with the Abu Dhabi Education Council and the three national federations for the sports to set up five elite centres, three in the capital city, and one each in Al Ain and Al Dhafra."
The project is the initiative of Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the chairman of ADSC. The UAE Wrestling, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Federation, along with the boxing and fencing federations, will provide the technical expertise and coaches for the programme .
"The initial step is to encourage everyone to actively participate in the training programmes and then select those potential candidates for specialised training," al Mahmoud added.
"The centres will conduct training four days a week from November to June 1, which is the first phase of the programme.
"We will have a good idea of the levels they reach during this period and then move into the second phase of our programme.
"We will definitely have a substantial number in each of the four sports disciplines and we are certain to unearth a lot of talent.
"It is a long-term plan as we see them as medal-winning sports at the Asian Games and Olympics.
"Of course we will have our own domestic competitions and those who come out on top from them will step up to regional and international competitions."
Mohammed Salem al Dhaheri, the director of the Abu Dhabi Educational Zone, welcomed the initiative as a massive step forward in promoting the four sports at grass roots level.
He added that the centres will provide a "great opportunity" for Emiratis to take up a sport and make it easier to identify the best talent.
"The schools are the nurseries and these elite centres provide them with a great opportunity to pursue in any one of the sports for both recreation and fitness, and also to go on to represent the country," he said.
"It becomes easier for us to identify the potential good ones."