Portrait of a Nation: UAE table tennis champion batting for youth development in racket sports

A former national table tennis champion is hoping her plans to launch league tournaments will encourage others to get involved in the sport.

Emirati table tennis player Majd Al Bloushi wants to inspire young women to take up the sport. Antonie Robertson / The National
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She has a scheme to get more women competing across the country so that there will be more medals claimed for the UAE.

SHARJAH // Former table tennis champion Majd Al Bloushi hopes to launch a league tournament this year between female expatriates and Emirati players to get more people excited about the sport.

The 25-year-old architectural engineer at Sharjah’s public works directorate retired from competitive sport two years ago but wants to inspire women to take up table tennis.

“I had some decisions to make a few years ago,” says Al Bloushi.

“Either I continued playing, or I retired, or I could be a decision-maker to develop the sport.”

She chose to develop the sport and is building a database of Emirati players, identifying their strengths and working on weaknesses to give them a fighting chance to win medals for the country.

“There is support for the youth but it should be continuous support,” says the champion, who is chairwoman of the Women’s Sports Development Association and a board member of the UAE Table Tennis and Badminton Association.

“I can help others achieve success and, in the end, the medal we win will be for the UAE.

“The idea is to create a mixed league for Emirati players and [expatriates] of all nationalities to gain experience and compete against each other.

“I want to do something to serve the whole UAE.

“We need more women in sports who are experts so they can talk to the young about challenges they will face before, after and during a match.”

Al Bloushi, UAE champion from 2004 until 2015 and bronze medallist in Gulf-level competitions, aims to put in place regular training camps, championships and overseas travel to competitions.

She started with an evaluation programme she wrote up for Emirati players.

Thirty women were pitted against each other a week before a nationwide contest organised in February for UAE sports day.

The aim of the programme is to improve the accuracy and technique of top players through continuous assessments.

Al Bloushi started table tennis at a young age, when she won a spot on the UAE national team at age 11, securing a gold medal in a 2004 championship after beating women three times her age.

While studying at the University of Sharjah, she shuttled between classes, practising at the Al Shabab Sports Club in Dubai or the Sharjah Ladies Club and returning for lectures.

“Majd has won medals but she is humble and ready to help others,” says Farhana Hakim, a graphic designer with a hearing impairment who took an optional Arabic literature class in university with Al Bloushi.

“She made sure to help me follow what was happening in class when I could not understand what was being taught.

“Her enthusiasm pushes other people to do more.”

Nada Al Naqbi, general manager of the Sharjah Women’s Sport Foundation, describes Al Bloushi as a role model.

“She is proof that you can balance sports and studies,” she says.

“She participated in international and domestic competitions and completed an engineering degree.

“It is not easy to be a board member on the table tennis federation but she proved herself again.”

One of Al Bloushi’s dreams is to build a racquet sports academy and this was part of her final year university project.

Her model includes ­residences for overseas players and a school for young players, with the ground level dedicated to sports physiotherapy facilities and an upper level for spectators and families to watch the games.

“This is something I wish for, a focus on racquet sports of table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis for women,” she says.

Both the sport and her career have shaped her vision for the future.

“Architecture is like the story of how people live and use a space,” she says.

“It’s not just how a place looks but how a space works in design and functionality.

“And sport gives you leadership, a sense of calm, strength, responsibility and control.

“Both architectural engineering and my sport have helped me define my goals and my ­vision.”