Imam Adi is making a habit of winning at the India Club UAE Open Badminton Tournament after the Indonesian won his third consecutive men’s singles title on Friday night.
The 21-year-old entered the court at India Club as the man to beat having stood top of the podium since 2015 and the Dubai-based player lived up to his billing, winning 2-1 (13-21, 22-20, 21-5) over compatriot Dea Adi Rangga.
He was one of four champions that came out on top on the final day of the 40th edition of the tournament. Following in his footsteps were Tanisha Crasto and Ketan Chahal (Mixed Doubles), James Varghese and Febriani Kusumawati (mxed doubles veterans 45+) and Chahal and Jaffer Ebrahim (men’s doubles).
For Adi, it was a far from an ideal start as Rangga drew first blood by taking the first game 21-13. That was the perfect wake-up call for Adi and he began to show why he was two-time defending champion to lead 11-10 in the interval.
An enthralling rally – that lasted more than 15 shots – was won by the eventual champion, who later levelled the tie.
It was all one-way traffic in the third with every shot won by Adi, who coaches at Dubai’s Prime Star Academy, applauded by the crowd before he wrapped up the victory. While it brought a smile to Adi’s face, he immediately delayed his celebrations to pose alongside his beaten opponent with the Indonesian flag.
“He’s a great player and we’ve known each other for a long time,” said Adi, who also won a 32-inch television as well as the trophy.
“It was a great match to win because I didn’t get the best of starts, but I gradually found my game to win and it’s really special to win my third title. I hope to achieve this again next year, although the competition is getting harder every year.”
For 14-year-old Crasto, she added to her women’s and Under-15 singles titles by retaining the mixed doubles crown.
The women’s final had been scheduled for Friday but was instead played on Wednesday evening after runner-up Negin Amiripour had booked her return flight back home to Iran later that night. Crasto made the most of the advantage of the extra rest by teaming up with Chahal, who had to battle through the pain barrier.
The pair have happy memories after their triumph 12 months ago and it was the same outcome as they piled more misery on men’s singles runner-up Rangga and Kusumawati by prevailing 2-1 (21-18, 24-26, 21-18) Castro, who studies at Indian High School, Dubai and Delhibased Chahal, 23, had to be at their very best in a match that could have gone either way.
It was halfway through the first game when Chahal suffered a recurrence of pain to his left knee which saw action briefly stopped. But the break seemed to be a blessing in disguise as he and Crasto took the first game.
Kusumawati and Rangga forced a decider and while the level of play raised another notch, it was Crasto and Chahal who were left celebrating.
“It was a lot of pain for me but there was no way I wanted to give in as it was the final,” said Chahal, who also won the men’s doubles title with Ebrahim after a 2-1 (21-12, 17-21, 21-15) win over Akbar Basri and Rangga. “It was a tough game and they really pushed us but playing with Tanisha really made things easier, she’s an awesome player.”
There was something to smile about for Kusumawati, who claimed the mixed doubles veterans crown with James Varghese by 21-15, 21-9 against Dinesh Nair and Dilisuci Desuari Sela.
Du Tough Mudder, the world-renowned obstacle course challenge and leading active lifestyle brand, will return to the Middle East from 8th-9th December 2017.
Following the success and high demand from the inaugural event in Dubai in December 2016, du Tough Mudder will return once again for thousands of new and returning Mudder to escape the ordinary and face the ultimate challenge of physical strength, stamina and mental grit.
Registration opens on the May 17 at 3pm at www.toughmudder.ae for a special 72 hour ‘Early Bird’ priority window for du customers to take advantage of a special discounted price. General release will follow on Sunday 21 May at 12 noon.
Taking place on the grounds of the Hamdan Sports Complex, du Tough Mudder, which is organised by IMG in partnership with du and Tough Mudder, Inc. and in cooperation with Dubai Sports Council, is an untimed and team-orientated challenge with larger than life mud-drenched obstacles designed around the values of courage, personal accomplishment, teamwork and fun.
Known as ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’ with its multi-distance courses, du Tough Mudder guarantees you will cross the finish line with more friends than you started with and be part of the 2.5 million Tough Mudder participants around the world who are part of Mudder Nation.
For 2017, du Tough Mudder will introduce a selection of new obstacles over the coming weeks while signature 2016 obstacles return for 2017.
Among those returning are Arctic Enema 2.0 (a head-first plunge into ice cold water), Electroshock Therapy (the infamous final obstacle on the Tough Mudder Full which requires a muddy sprint through dangling electric wires charged with over 10,000 volts of electricity) and the Block-Ness Monster where Mudders will have to work together to push, pull and roll their way through 60 feet of slick, rotating barriers in a waist-deep water pit, putting team to the ultimate test on this fun and challenging obstacle.
For the younger thrill-seekers, we warmly welcome back du Mini Mudder, the 1.5km obstacle course mud run giving kids aged 7-13 the chance to work as a team and experience the excitement of adventure.
“We are proud to bring du Tough Mudder back to the Middle East.” said Abdulwahed Juma, Executive Vice President – Brand and Corporate Communications, du. “Our focus in the UAE is to bring the best experiences to our customers, by adding life to life.
Tough Mudder is a globally acclaimed challenge which our customers loved last year; we look forward to attracting even more participants this year.”
Greg Sproule, Managing Director of IMG Middle East, said: “This challenge has united millions of active, fun-seeking individuals across the planet and we are thrilled to bring this incredible experience of du Tough Mudder back to the Middle East in partnership with du and in cooperation with Dubai Sports Council.
We are also taking great steps this year to even further enhance the participant experience for 2017. With its challenging obstacles, du Tough Mudder is the ultimate adventure that requires teamwork and camaraderie and will leave you with life long memories.”
H.E. Saeed Hareb, the Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council said, “The Dubai Sports Council is keen to support any event or project which motivates UAE residents to enrol in sports and various fitness activities, helping to promote a healthier lifestyle.
We are thrilled to support the return of du Tough Mudder which attracted thousands of sport and outdoor activity enthusiasts from all walks of life.
With the return of this global event, Dubai is proving that it’s an important sporting hub within the GCC and across the globe.”
Will Dean, CEO & Founder of Tough Mudder, said, “It was amazing to see how Dubai embraced du Tough Mudder last year and we’re thrilled to be returning later this year. With the introduction of a new obstacle – the Augustus Gloop – together with our epic team-driven obstacles we will create the ultimate life-changing adventure for thousands of new and returning Mudders of the Middle East.”
So, grab your friends and colleagues and sign up now for this adrenaline pumping challenge and experience a life-changing adventure.
Even the most generous visions of what a wheelchair basketball player should look like fail to flatter Mohammed Al Zarooni.
The 36-year-old Emirati cuts an experienced figure, which is a nice way of saying he looks old for what he’s doing on the court. Hair missing on the top of his head and a body closer to healthy than lean, Al Zarooni wouldn’t be the first person picked out in a gym if the exercise was to identify the UAE’s top player and face of the team.
Yet here he is, playing in another Fazza Wheelchair Basketball International Championship this week at Al Ahli Club, leading his home nation as best he can against superpowers in the sport.
“Don’t worry about the balding,” Al Zarooni says with the laugh of a man comfortable in his skin and role with the UAE team, who he’s played with for 17 years.
Being around that long grants Al Zarooni a better vantage point on the landscape of wheelchair basketball in the Emirates than most. There are older players on the team, but Al Zarooni has been at the forefront and realises just how far they’ve come and how much further they still have to go.
“Team-wise, we have new plans and a new strategy,” he says. “We hired a new coach from England, he’s been with us for six months. We have different tactics and we’re improving in training. In games unfortunately, we are not. Not all of the players have the same mentality, so in the games, they’re not used to new players, moves and skills.”
Games like Tuesday’s 82-35 loss to Great Britain have become all too familiar. It would be understandable if Al Zarooni was too frustrated or jaded to keep working to improve the prospects of a country whose progress has been slow.
When speaking with Al Zarooni though, it’s immediately clear he has found the happy medium bet-ween striving for more and being appreciative of what he’s already accomplished. Most of all, his love for basketball remains undeterred, something he wants his team-mates, both young and old, to share.
“Play with heart. Enjoy the game. Enjoy the moment. Don’t worry about the result,” Al Zarooni says.
Al Zarooni’s own journey in basketball began at the age of 19, when he joined Al Thiqah Club for Handicapped in Sharjah while attending Sharjah Men’s College.
Born without the full use of his legs, his dream was to be a Paralympian and Al Zarooni decided the easiest route to the national team would be through basketball. So he began training in college, attending 05:30 sessions while consuming dates and milk, resulting in a loss of 15kg. At the same time, he remained focused on his studies.
After completing college, he upped his training and finally broke through to the UAE team. Representing his nation may not have been as challenging as it is for others across the world, but he hopes able-bodied people understand how much handicapped athletes have to overcome.
“Wheelchair basketball is more difficult. For normal people, it’s normal. They can take care of themselves. Us, we have to take care of our disabilities, plus other things,” he says. “Don’t think this is easy.”
Al Zarooni’s challenges aren’t contained to his own struggles, however. He has two sons, Ahmed, eight, and Abdullah, six. Abdullah is also handicapped and Al Zarooni has travelled to the United States over the past seven years for his son’s treatment.
When he’s overseas, he still makes sure to find a gym and shoot around, like the time he wandered into an LA Fitness and played in a pick-up game with able-bodied players. Al Zarooni took two shots in the game. Both were 3-pointers and both found the bottom of the net. “They were freaking out and I felt so much joy,” he says.
That same joy keeps Al Zarooni going, even as he tacks on the years. Whether or not the UAE rise to the level he’d like, he still plans on crashing chairs and squeaking wheels on the hardwood.
“I hope people get more cheered up to go to the clubs, rather than sitting in their homes and doing nothing. Even if you’re handicapped, you can still represent your country,” Al Zarooni says. “We still need people who are hungry to play. I’ll be there, no one’s taking my place. I’ll see you in 10 years. No worries, man. I’m not going anywhere.”
Pictures by Chris Whiteoak/whiteoakpictures.