The UAE announced their biggest ever Asian Games contingent on Thursday and are expecting their biggest medal haul from the continental spectacle in Indonesia from August 18 to September 2.
The party consists of 217, including 138 athletes who will participate across 23 different sporting disciplines.
“This is the biggest delegation ever for an Asian Games and we are hopeful of winning more medals than in previous Games,” said Abdul Malik Jani, director of the National Olympic Committee at their headquarters on Thursday.
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“The other reason for naming such a big participation in the continental Games is because this time we didn’t have the Arab Games, Arabian Championship and the Gulf Championship.
“Our athletes in the various disciplines have been training over the years. For some, it will be for experience, and for some youngsters, an opportunity to qualify for the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires from October 6 to 18.”
According to Jani, some of the medal prospect sports for the UAE are jiu-jitsu, jet ski, shooting, bowling, rowing, sailing, judo and karate.
“Of course there are no guarantees in competitions that have drawn more than 10,000 athletes from over 45 countries but we believe we stand a good chance to win medals in the disciplines that we have mentioned,” he said.
The UAE will participate in football, basketball, shooting, equestrian, athletics, judo, jiu-jitsu, taekwondo, karate, wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, archery, fencing, cycling, golf, sailing, kayaking, table tennis, rugby, jet ski, triathlon and bowling.
Football gets underway before the official opening with the UAE facing Bahrain in the opening game on August 10 in a group that also includes South Korea, Kyrgyzstan and Malaysia.
The team are in a camp in Malaysia and will fly out directly to Jakarta soon after their second friendly against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. They meet Malaysia on August 12 followed by South Korea and Kyrgyzstan.
The Under-23 football team can include three overage players, and chose Salem Ali of Al Wahda and Khalfan Al Mesmari of Fujairah. Many key senior players are are in Austria for the first of five training camps ahead of the 2019 Asian Cup and were therefore not available for selection.
“They had good a camp in Holland and flew it to Malaysia on July 30, where they will play two friendlies before flying out to Jakarta on July 8,” said Ibrahim Al Nimr, representative from the Football Association.
“We have prepared well and are hopeful of a good showing. Our first objective is to qualify from the group to the knockout round and then take it from there.”
The UAE take on Sri Lanka in the rugby opener on August 30 followed by fixtures against South Korea and Afghanistan. In basketball, they are pitted against the Philippines, Syria and Iran.