'UAE's greatest sportsman'
BEIJING // The UAE's only Olympic gold medallist, Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher, has been hailed as the UAE's "greatest-ever sportsman" after yesterday announcing that he would retire from international sport after the Beijing Games. Sharpshooter Sheikh Ahmed equalled the Olympic record as he won gold in the double trap in Athens in 2004 and was in action yesterday in Beijing, where he finished 19th in the men's trap first day's qualifying. "We can say he is the UAE's greatest-ever sportsman - no one else has yet achieved what he has done. He put the UAE into the sporting history books," said Ibrahim Abdul Malik, the secretary general of the UAE Olympic committee, adding that now it was time for the UAE to find a new Olympic hero.
"Now it is the turn for another to take over Sheikh Ahmed's mantle and get a result for the country," he said. Malik added he hoped Sheikh Ahmed would play a role in helping develop sporting excellence in the UAE after his retirement. "We feel sorry that he decided to retire after these Games but it is his right and it is a personal decision," he said. "I hope that he will perhaps play some role in setting up a sports development centre in the UAE. He is a very smart man and I'm sure it would be a success."
The 17-year-old judo player Saeed al Qubaisi is the next UAE athlete to compete as he takes to the mat tomorrow. "We have done some training in the competition hall to prepare him and he is good psychologically," said Qubaisi's coach Sergei Savielev. Meanwhile, the UAE team have revealed they was boosted by royal visits to the Olympic Village before the opening ceremony on Friday. Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, married to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, greeted the team, who were also visited by his daughter Sheikha Maitha, who is competing in taekwondo.
"These visits were really appreciated by everybody - we felt strongly supported," said Mohammed al Khaja, the UAE Olympic committee's chef de mission in Beijing. China has responded to "teething problems" in the UAE team's arrangements promptly, Kahaja said. "The UAE is being treated really well here. We hosted a Chinese delegation in Dubai when they came to the Gulf and provided them with all the facilities. Here we are seeing a great response. There are many arrangements to be made when your delegation includes company from a Royal Family and they have been well taken care of," he said.
Updated: August 9, 2008 04:00 AM