RAS AL KHAIMAH // It was a day of alchemy as chemical dexterity was transformed into four gold medals and first place overall for the UAE at the sixth Arab Chemistry Olympiad. The Emirates won the lion's share of the five gold medals on offer yesterday, with the Palestinian team finishing second and Saudi Arabia third. Students had to undergo two days of gruelling tests with three theory examinations on the first day, followed by three practical tests - including having to make aspirin - the following day.
Mouza al Mattar, the president of the UAE Chemical Society, said the next step was for the Ministry of Education to send supervisors to the International Chemistry Olympiad so that a team from the UAE can compete at the world event. "Maybe now, when they see that students from the Emirates are excellent, they will know that we can go to internationals," she said. "The Ministry of Education must accept that we will share in the international competition. This will bring co-operation from all the schools in the UAE."
It would also bring great pride to the students, who hit the books at a furious pace to put themselves in a position to win the overall competition. "I'd really like to participate in international events," said Hamdan al Hosani, 17, of Abu Dhabi, who finished third in the individual standings. "When we took the training camp, we were very close and we work closely together. I think the UAE is ready. I think we could win."
Noura Salim froze when she heard her name called as the top student from nearly 50 contestants representing 13 countries. "My mother cried and my brother caught me by the hand and helped me up the stairs because I couldn't walk," said Ms Salim, 18, from the village of Tawaeen in Fujairah. "It feels really great. I studied hard and I got very tired, and I won." The achievement has made her reconsider her decision to study geographical information systems instead of chemistry at university in Al Ain next year.
Omar Abdullah, of RAK, who won the UAE's fourth gold medal, plans to study nuclear engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in the US. Dana Gazelle, 17, from the West Bank in the Palestinian territories, earned the other top prize, each of which was rewarded with US$1,000 and a laptop computer. firstname.lastname@example.org