Just moments after arriving back with his gold medal, UAE skeet shooter Saif bin Futtais has set sights on achieving a top six finish in the World Championship Shotgun in Russia.
The 43-year-old Emirati Olympian did the UAE proud last weekend by topping the podium in skeet action at the Asian Shooting Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan.
It was another medal in his collection which already consists of golds in the Pan Arab Championship and the Cyprus Grand Prix but he is eager to add to his tally when he competes against the world’s best in Moscow from August 30 to September 11.
“The World Championships in Moscow is my next competition and the gold I have just won will give me a lot of confidence,” said Bin Futtais, who was received my members of the UAE Shooting Association on his arrival at Dubai International Airport on Sunday evening.
“I want to finish in the top six there. I know it will be difficult because the world’s best shooters will be there but I’ve won other competitions as well and want to do the same on the world stage.
“If you’re challenging for the top six, there’s always a good chance to win a medal and that’s something I want.”
In the Astana, it was far from perfect conditions for Bin Futtais and the rest of the finalists. They had to overcome gusty winds and temperatures as low as 8°C and the Emirati admits he believed his chances of claiming gold would be slim at the start of the contest.
“I didn’t think at all that I could win gold,” he said, who placed 29th in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“It was difficult because I could not see the targets clearly because of the dark clouds. Although it was tough conditions, my mentality was still the same as I would approach any competition and there were still medals to be won because it was a final.
“As soon as the target was released, I just wanted to shoot and take the perfect aim and it was one of my toughest wins so far.”
Bin Futtais will not have much time to relax and will begin his training for the World Championships on Wednesday with practice sessions in Dubai and Al Ain.
Hassan Al-Nuaimi, a board member of the UAE Shooting Association, lauded bin Futtais’ efforts in flying the UAE flag high at international competitions.
“We congratulate Saif bin Futtais for his gold medal,” he said. “He is an athlete who has constantly performed in the last two years which has placed him among the top shooters in the world.
“We at the UAE Shooting Association are thrilled with his achievements and for what he has done to our sport because he always flies the UAE flag high.”
Dubai Sports World, together with Team Angel Wolf and Omnicom Media Group, hosted the inaugural ‘Together We Can’ campaign on Monday to raise awareness about children with disabilities in sports.
Two customised wheelchairs provided by Omnicom Media Group were available to give children with disabilities the opportunity to race around the track at Dubai Sports World.
The wheelchair racing also marked the seventh anniversary of the summer venue at the World Trade Centre hence why Nick Watson and his son Rio – who form Team Angel Wolf – decided to do complete 7km at 7am on August 7th.
“It was unbelievable. We had an amazing turnout from the general public who have been following through social media. It was a great first for us and a great success,” said Watson, a former Royal Marine and fitness expert, who has been a Dubai resident since 1996.
“The venue is just awesome, it’s huge, and they have so many activities there. It’s brilliant to have an indoor venue where multiple sports can be played throughout the UAE summer.”
Team Angel Wolf started officially one year ago as a non-profit organisation with the aim of getting the community involved.
At the centre of Team Angel Wolf is 13-year-old Rio, who suffers from Q44 Deletion De Novo, which means he struggles with walking and communicates through sign language.
Along with dad Nick, the dynamic duo have competed in 83 gruelling races in the UAE over the past two years.
Whether it’s a triathlon, a tower run, a cycle or straight running race, the pair are always out in force raising awareness and getting the community behind the work they do.
“The idea is to raise awareness and to inspire the community to get healthy. There’s no excuse to not get out and do sport and activities,” said Watson.
“We wanted to build awareness through racing, but now, the focus is the ‘Together We Can’ campaign to let the community experience what I do and for them to get involved.”
This initiative aims to host free weekly community activities for children with disabilities to enjoy sports with their families and volunteers in their local area.
Nick plans to build the campaign going forward, with the aim of getting more wheelchairs for people to get involved to see the work himself and Rio do.
He added: “When we have more chairs we will now run a regular programme, going every Sunday night down by Sunset Mall in Jumeirah, so we can show the community what we do. Our goal is to have 10 chairs by the end of the year!
“I’d love to have 10 chairs for the Dubai Marathon in January and find nine athletes who want to push athletes for the race. We can run together with the ten chairs with the aim of doing the marathon in sub-4 hours. It’ll give exposure for something quite unique.”
Not many of us fully appreciate the incredible life of luxury and privilege we live out here in the UAE – one person who certainly does is Olga Zolotova.
The Russian commodities trader has lived in the Emirates for four years and while most fellow expatriates spend their free time splurging their tax-free and inflated salaries at expensive restaurants and on fancy cars, Zolotova uses hers to aid good causes.
She climbed Kilimanjaro last year to promote the UAE as an accepting and inclusive country after the Emirates introduced the Anti-Discrimination Law, while she also cycled across the Liwa desert earlier this year to collect toys for orphans in the UAE and raise awareness about the issues they face.
She will be off on another adventure later this month when she heads to her homeland to climb Mount Elbrus, which at 5,642 metres high, is the tallest peak in Europe.
She and fellow adrenaline junky Mohamad Khalaf will begin their climb next Tuesday, spending 10 days ascending to the daunting summit.
Their latest campaign fits in with the Eid Al Adha holiday which begins on August 31 and the beneficiaries this time will be the hard-working labourers of the UAE who work in very contrasting conditions to the rest of us.
“We live in exceptional comfort and even in the plus 45 degree outside we hardly notice in our air conditioned houses, offices and cars,” said Zolotova, 26, who also ran seven ultra-marathons in as many days across the country’s seven emirates last May to raise money for Syrian children.
“But because we experience it every day we slowly stop noticing those comforts around and they become something that goes without saying.
“How often do we think of the people who wake up at night to clean the streets, work throughout hot days and nights to create this amazing infrastructure, who fill your car with petrol in the heat?
“I am sure we are all aware of the workers in Dubai who maintain our daily convenience and comforts. These people leave their families back home and come here to ensure their loved ones will have a more comfortable life back in their country.
“Although I am aware the labourers are being taking care of by our government, every time I see them working on the streets I always want to say thank you for doing all this to make this city and my life safe and clean.”
To say thank you to the local workforce, Zolotova and Khalaf will put their love of sport and keeping fit to the test with the arduous climb – a risky journey due to the severe weather conditions that climbers often encounter.
“It is a tough and risky journey but the main challenge is altitude,” added Zolotova, who has worked for sugar traders Czarnikow since 2013.
“For the last couple of months all I remember is the gym-office-gym-bed – it’s been the same routine every day, interrupted by often going to the laundry since I spend half a day in the gym or at the running track.
“We have been training twice a day, we wake up every morning at 05:00, doing cardio training and gym, then we go to the office and in the evening from 19:00-21:00 we train again.
“There is nothing that can really prepare you for the altitude, but by doing lots of running, cycling and swimming you can help your body get used to cardio activities and by training in the gym you can ensure you will be able to carry your 20kg bag. I also find running up the stairs is one of the best exercises to prepare.”
It’s sure to be a grueling trek, but previous endeavours will surely stand her in good stead, even though she only took up running in 2015 during her recovery from illness.
“In general being outdoor is my favorite activity. Mohamad and I spend the winter in Oman mountains,” added Volotova, who claims her hobby has its pitfalls.
“Outdoor sport is very different from any other sport. If you run or cycle on the track and fall you most probably will get up and continue or in the worst case you will call for help. If you fall in mountains then you are in trouble as most probably you won’t have connection, the terrain will be tough and it will take real effort to get help.
“Elbrus is similar to our Kilimanjaro challenge. It’s approximately 300m less in altitude but has severe weather conditions that change every day and sometimes every hour. It also is more technical and we have to use extra safety equipment.
“The main difference is you have to carry your bags yourself, we won’t have the luxury of Sherpas like in Kilimanjaro or Everest base camp. But I feel we are ready for this.”
Although Zolotova and Khalaf will be tackling Elbrus alone, UAE residents can do their part by helping their hard-working yet underappreciated local workforce.
You can donate hygiene items – soaps, towels, toothpastes, body lotions, etc – which the duo will distribute at labour camps once they return from their trip.
They are coordinating their efforts with Red Crescent and we people can make donations at stands in Times Square Center.
“We invite all citizens and residents to participate in our initiative and to say one big thank you,” added Zolotova.
“Between September 3-20 everyone can pass by Times Square Center and drop off donations, boxes will be located on the ground floor and you can drop off your donation here. We do not ask for much – a soap or shampoo for Dh5 or 10 is more than enough.
“For many of us this cost is nothing but for those workers it might be a lot and we all know how hygiene items are important, especially in the summer.
“Please help us to thank our laborers, they sacrificed their own comforts to ensure people of the UAE live in comfort. Let’s help bring a piece of comfort to their lives too.”