Badminton joined a select group of sports when it made a successful debut at the Finals of the fifth UAE School Olympics last week, with 173 players (89 boys and 84 girls) contesting the Under 11, Under 13 and Under 15 categories.
In October last year it was announced that badminton would be the first racquet sport to be included in the School Olympics, joining athletics, swimming, judo, taekwondo, fencing, archery, shooting, and jiu-jitsu.
Following the announcement, Shuttle Time Dubai, which has been operating in Dubai for three years, extended its Dubai-based programmes and worked with the National Olympic Committee and Ministry of Education to support the establishment of 18 Badminton School Olympic Training Centres across the UAE.
In Dubai, the National Training Centres established in 2015 received additional support from the National Olympic Committee and Ministry of Education to serve as the Olympic Training Centres. The Centres saw an estimated 500 players training three times per week.
To support the introduction of the Training Centres in other emirates, Shuttle Time Dubai conducted teaching courses in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman to equip teachers with the skills to train the children involved in the badminton programme.
In addition, Shuttle Time Dubai also donated 500 racquets, 400 shuttlecocks and 25 portable nets to the Badminton School Olympic Training Centres.
The extensive preparation across the UAE paid off last week, with an exciting competition in both the girls’ and boys’ three age categories at the UAE School Olympics.
The team representing Dubai dominated the competition, taking home all but four of the medals, with five gold, five silver and ten bronze in their total haul of 20 medals. The team from Eastern Sharjah also performed well against more experienced opposition, taking home one gold, one silver and two bronze.
Riyan Malhan and Mitulsaran Udayan booked their spots in the semi-finals of the boys’ singles under-9 years category with straight games victory in the 40th India Club UAE Open Badminton Tournament 2017.
At the badminton courts of India Club, Malhan advanced by defeating Evan Jacob Mathew 21-4, 21-5 while Udayan defeated Arjun Jose 23-21, 21-10.
In another U9 match, Noel Cherian Jacob beat Hariharan Sundarapandian 21-13, 21-8.
In the boys’ singles under 11, Aman Sengupta moved into the quarter-finals after defeating Nisarg Thunga 21-4, 21-9, while Mohammed Fardeen had an easy time with a 21-2, 21-1 win over Mohamed Salman.
Thunga, however, advanced in the higher U13 category with a 21-6, 21-5 win over Gagan Mahadikar.
In other U134 matches played on the day, Farhan Siyad, Anwin Krishna and Ahmed Armen Shaji were also winners in two games. Siyad defeated Tanishq Mahimkar 21-7, 21-5, Krishna got the better of Aditya Rajakumar 21-11, 21-19, while Shaji wrapped up his match against Aravind Krishnan quickly with a 21-3, 21-4 result.
The most interesting match in the boys’ singles under 11 was played between Virat Desai and Atchuthan Damodharan. Virat lost the first game 6-21, but stormed back to win the next two 21-19, 21-14.
In the girls’ singles under 13 years, Mishti Bradoo defeated Anvitha Vijay in a hard-fought match 21-17, 21-18, while Sakshi Prakash had a comparatively easier time against Purva Mahadikar, winning 21-14, 21-8.
Devika Malhan moved ahead in girls’ under 11 years singles by defeating Riya Dhamale 21-9, 21-16, but Gianna Fernandes and Sreya Binesh needed three games to defeat their opponents. Fernandes beat Samaika Soni 21-18, 11-21, 21-16, while Binesh got the better of Taralaxmi Karthikeyan 21-16, 16-21, 21-13.
Commencing from April 26 at India Club, Dubai, a total of 28 categories [singles and doubles] for adults and juniors are on the schedule with attractive prizes of up to Dh60,000 to be won in the competition, which is presented by Henna Speedy.
As one of the oldest competitions in the UAE, the event has gone from strength to strength. In 2016, it was given a four-star rating in the Sports Events Ranking System by Dubai Sports Council.
That saw more than 600 contestants took to the courts last year and organisers are predicting an even bigger turn-out with registration closing on Saturday.
“We had a record number of entries last year with 603 and I’m confident we’ll beat that this year,” said Sunil Singh, tournament organiser.
“The India Club UAE Open Badminton tournament has come a long way since it first began. It started as the UAE Open as the sport wasn’t that big at the time. In 2001, we realised there were a lot of people playing badminton and slowly it started growing.
“In the past, we have had players from Iran, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia and India as well as other countries and now it’s a case we don’t have to invite players because the sport is now quite established here in the UAE.”
Matches will be played at 19:00 on weekdays and from 10:00 on Fridays. Entries to categories are restricted to three per person in order to allow more people to compete.
“Our focus is on the youths in order for them to play competitive badminton,” said Singh.
“Each player is only allowed to enter in three categories as we want more people to be part of our annual event.
“We want people to have a passion for the game and a lot of them have that. This is a place where you can showcase your talent. A lot will have given up the sport at one stage but this tournament gives you the platform to play and enjoy it again.”