Sheikha Latifa leads UAE to second silver
GUANGZHOU, CHINA // After going eight days without a medal, the UAE have now claimed two in as many days after the Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum-led team finished second in the showjumping competition yesterday.
While Saudi Arabia wowed the crowd with near-perfect jumping to win the gold, the UAE won a jump-off with Hong Kong after finishing level with 11 faults.
Taleb Dhaher al Muhairi, the secretary general of the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF), said the performance by Sheikha Latifa, Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh Majid Al Qassimi and Ahmed al Junaibi was one of the greatest moments for the country.
"I am very pleased that the UAE won the silver in the team jumping," al Muhairi said.
"It is a big achievement for our riders considering that there was stiff competition from many Asian countries."
He thanked Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE, for the team's success and welcomed his unconditional support for equestrian sports in the country.
He also took the opportunity to thank Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa, the EEF chairman, who provided all the facilities for the jumpers to train thoroughly to meet the growing global challenges.
All of the horses at the Games have been blood tested and microchipped in an effort to create a zone completely free of equine diseases.
And it has already had a positive outcome: China yesterday transported horses off the mainland for the first time in 60 years. The first batch of 26 competition horses left on a plane bound for Europe, the first time since 1949 the international community has accepted horses from mainland China.
The Games featured China's first-ever international equestrian event as outbreaks of equine disease and substandard quarantine procedures had previously prevented the country from hosting high-level competition. Competitors could get their horses into China, but not out.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, equestrian events were held in nearby Hong Kong,
Even though equestrian events have a tiny following in China, the competition has been earning high marks from participants.
"We were shocked at the facilities here and with the organisation. The services they have here are high-end," said Sheikh Majid.
"You can compare it with the highest international events."
To keep track of what has been going in and out of the equestrian area, competitors had to provide packing lists, right down to the hoof picks in the tack box. "It was strict but it's good for the sport ... because for an epidemic to spread, everyone will blame the Chinese for not doing their job. So this was very good for our horses," Sheikh Majid said.
Elsewhere, Yusuf Saad Kamel, the world champion from Bahrain, claimed he was forced to compete at the Games against his will, and the results showed yesterday when he failed to qualify for the final of the 1,500 metres.
The Kenya-born Kamel criticised Bahrain team officials, saying they ignored his complaints about an injured right knee and insisted he run in Guangzhou.
He finished ninth in the second of two heats, ranking 13th in qualifying. "I told my team officials but they didn't listen to me," Kamel, who has had long-running issues with Bahrain's athletics officials, said of the injury. "They pushed me to come and that's why I'm here.
"I'm not upset about my failure, but about their pushing me to run."
Kamel won the world championships at Berlin last year in 3mins, 35.93secs. His time yesterday was almost 23 seconds slower than that.
He also collected bronze in the 800m at the world championships, and is listed for the event in Guangzhou. He does not want to run that, either.
Published: November 23, 2010 04:00 AM