Gold in mind for Khaled

Teenager is dreaming of a spot on the podium

Adel Khaled puts his back into some practice for the single-handed lightweight Laser competition which gets under way today in China's Yelow Sea.
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BEIJING// The UAE Olympic team take to the water today in their quest for glory, with happy-go-lucky sailor Adel Khaled racing his dinghy in the Yellow Sea and swimmer Obaid Ahmed Obaid plunging into the pool in Beijing's iconic Water Cube. Khaled, 19, said yesterday that sailing was "in his blood". He spent yesterday morning on the waters of the Yellow Sea off the coast of north-eastern China.

Khaled, who is the only Arab among 43 competitors in the single-handed lightweight Laser dinghy racing, continued his relaxed preparation yesterday with a gym session and dinner with his coach and manager before watching a film and going to bed. "My feeling is great. I had practice and it was good," he said. "The conditions in Qingdao were the same as in Abu Dhabi. There were a few big waves but overall the weather was calm.

"I am going for gold - this is my dream and I should try to take it. "I want to perform so I can be proud of myself and my country can be proud of me. "I don't care about anything except gold and that's all I'm thinking about. This is my time and I have been working hard for it. Sailing is in my blood. "I don't think it will be too difficult. Racing here at the Olympics will be the same as racing in Europe or the UAE.

"If you think about it too much you will get nervous and make mistakes. So I take it easy." Khaled, who said he listens to Arabic classical music to stay relaxed, will race 10 heats, with races every day until Aug 18 except Aug 15, in the hope of qualifying for the medal race on Aug 19. He first began sailing in 2001 with his cousins at the Dubai International Marine Club and now lives in Abu Dhabi, where he works as a sailing coach with the Abu Dhabi Sailing Club.

Khaled's boat, the Laser, is one of the most popular single-handed dinghies in the world. By 2007 there were more than 190,000 being sailed around the world. In 2003, Khaled won the European Laser Championships and in 2007 he took gold in the Laser Class in the Arab Games. He said he would get up at 4am and spend an hour in the gym before going out on the to the Arabian Gulf in an effort to replicate the conditions in Qingdao.

"There isn't too much sun at that time and the conditions are the same as in China," he said. Khaled said there were several promising youngsters learning to sail at Abu Dhabi, and said the country was on course to begin producing sailors to compete with the world's best. "There are some really good talents coming through and very soon the country will begin to hear about them. I don't want to mention any names because maybe the others will get jealous but they are all improving. Sailing is going to be very popular in the UAE for sure," he said.

"You learn a huge amount about yourself physically and mentally through sailing," he said, adding that he was grateful to Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan, chairman of Bin Zayed Group, for sponsoring him. "You learn what you are, who you are, how you can improve as a person. I have learned everything from sailing" China has had to clear vast quantities of green algae from the Olympic sailing area after a sudden bloom in June and July.

The algae, to which sailors gave names like "The Fairway" and "The Carpet," clogged about 30 per cent of the 50sq km (19.3sq miles) of sailing area. Chinese Olympic organisers spared no effort in clearing it away, calling out thousands of troops and volunteers to pick it up from as many as 1,500 boats and along the shore. They now have 300 fishing trawlers and 1,500 fishermen working off the coast to haul up as much as possible before it reaches the racing venue, organisers said.

Such blooms are often attributed to a build-up of nitrogen in the water, which can come from sewage or pollutants, although in this case the Chinese said it was down to the temperature and salinity of the water. Algae won't be a problem in the Beijing's National Aquatics Centre, popularly known as the Water Cube, where Obaid, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Saturday, is competing in the men's 100 m freestyle swim.

In his heat Obaid will be up against swimmers from Armenia, Mauritius, Fiji, and the Caribbean islands of Bermuda and Aruba. The only two other Arab competitors in his event are Libya's Sofyam El Gadi and Algeria's Nabil Kebbab. He will need to improve on his qualifying time of almost 55secs to have a chance of reaching the semi-finals tomorrow and the final on Thursday.