ABU DHABI // Thousands of pupils sped down the Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday as schools in the emirate took part in an Abu Dhabi Educational Council Marathon event.
The inaugural day of sports and social activities brought in 3,000 primary and secondary pupils from across the emirate to compete in 3km and 5km races. They also participated in other events, including jiu jitsu, rock climbing and dance aerobics.
The event was part of Adec’s Champions of Tomorrow initiative, which aims to encourage sports activity among the youth and create a generation of talented athletes, said Nasser Khamis, director of Adec’s extra-curricular activities department.
“Participation in the marathon and other sporting activities helps youth discover their talent in a particular sport, while educating them on the overall benefits of sports,” he said.
Mr Khamis urged all parents and pupils to participate in events such as the marathon.
The advancement in sports in the UAE has been impressive but events such as the marathon needed to be more frequent and countrywide, said Mohammed Abdulkareem, a physical education teacher at Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib School.
“These events have to spread to the other emirates because although the facilitates are available students could benefit from more encouragement to participate,” said Mr Abdulkareem, who has been teaching at the 10-12 Grade school in Bani Yas for a year.
Mr Abdulkareem said he was impressed with the Emirati pupils’ participation in the event, saying thay 35 out of 45 children he brought to yesterday’s event were UAE nationals.
“Our students are involved in many sport activities and we hold tournaments for them throughout the school year,” he said.
Marwa Mohammed, a physical education teacher at Al Sumou School in Al Ain, said the fact she was able to bring 27 10-year-old girls from the city showed that support for female sports in UAE society was growing.
“Many families used to not want their daughters to get involved in any of these activities and as you see today we brought close to 30 girls to another city,” she said.
Ms Mohammed said she has seen a steady rise in the support of sport activities for young girls by the Government, school administrations and families.
“Our school’s principal fully supports these extra-curricular activities and you see mothers now pushing their daughters to participate more than the fathers.”
Also making the journey from Al Ain was Ahmed Al Gaithi, 10, of Al Sadara School.
The Emirati fifth grader, who was competing in the 3km race, said he and 45 fellow pupils had made the trip and participated in a range of sports during school, including football, basketball and jiu jitsu.
When asked if he stayed active during the hot summer months, Ahmed said the heat did not slow him down at all.
“We play all summer at indoor clubs, so we have fun all year long,” he said.
Mohammed Yihya, a pupil at Al Seddeeq Private School in Al Ain, said his interest in sport started when he moved to the UAE from Yemen seven years ago.
“In Yemen, the schools did not really focus on sports and activities and it was hard to get into a sport even if you had an interest. Here, you can see they take sports more seriously in school,” the 16-year-old said.