Dreams of gold as gift for nation

Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid has her sights set on only one thing - a gold medal at the Beijing Games.

The Emirates' Sheikha Maitha Mohammed Rashed al-Makhtoum (L) punches Indonesia's Mardiah Nasution in the over 65kg karate semi-final at the 15th Asian Games in Doha December 13, 2006.  REUTERS/Caren Firouz (QATAR)
Picture Supplied by Action Images *** Local Caption *** 2006-12-13T130725Z_01_DOH604_RTRIDSP_3_GAMES-ASIAN-KARATE.jpg
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Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid, daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is often finds herself the centre of attraction. But Sheikha Maitha currently has her sights set on only one thing - a gold medal at the Beijing Games. She will compete in the under 67kg taekwondo competition as she chases her dream of turning the Games into "a golden success for my father and country".

For months she has been training, travelling the far corners of the globe to improve her skills. She has held camps with the Moroccan and Egyptian national teams in Dubai and travelled to the oldest taekwondo schools in China and South Korea. She has even sought the assistance of Luo Wei, the women's 67kg gold medal winner at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 72kg world champion in 2007 She wants to pay back a small portion of the many beautiful things she has been given by her "great father".

"I cannot really express my feeling about going to the Olympics," she said in Dubai, after finishing an intensive training camp at the Zabeel Club last month. "As the day draws closer, there is a swell of emotions inside me. "We have not had the time to achieve all the goals we set for ourselves in training but the time constraints have only served to make us work harder and intensify our efforts.

"I will continue to work hard. My dream is to win the gold in Beijing and I will do everything possible. "It will be the nicest gift for my parents and the country." Sheikha Maitha, who was voted the Best Female Arab Sportsperson for the second year running in March, has tasted plenty of success at international events. She has won two gold medals, a silver and three bronze at the Pan Arab Games. Her greatest moment came at the 2006 Doha Asian Games when she won the +60kg karate silver medal.

"The silver medal at the Doha Asian games was just the start of our journey," she said. "I hope the Beijing Olympics will be another successful stop. "I have a lot more experience and maturity now, and I hope I will be able to show the progress I have made since Doha in Beijing." Her determination and steely resolve have many admirers in the world of sports. "She is a real sportswoman, a fighter," said Ibrahim Abdul Malik, the general secretary of the National Olympic Committee.

"When you think about Sheikha Maitha, you need to understand that she is the daughter of our vice President and Prime Minister "This lady can be very soft, stay in the comfort of her home and enjoy her life with all the amenities available to her. "She can live an enchanted life. But she did not use all these things. "She left everything behind and came to sport. And she went to a very tough sport.

"This means that our royal families do not consider themselves as elite and that they should live a very sophisticated life. They consider themselves the same as any other athlete in the UAE, or any other country even. Leaving the soft life, they work very hard, they fight and they train. "That is why we have a great respect for Sheikha Maitha. " Abdul Malik predicts there is more glory to come. "Sheikha Maitha works very hard and I hope she will get the results of her hard work," he said.

"She has had a couple of very good camps and some friendly bouts with the big names in the same weight category. "She is a very keen and very aggressive woman. I hope that, with a bit of luck she will get a positive result. "That will be a great honour for all of us." It is this same honour that Sheikha Maitha will be fighting for. To put it in her own words: "I will do my best to make my motherland proud."