Expatriate athletes have welcomed the announcement that they now have an opportunity to represent the UAE in international competitions in the future.
Last month, the General Sports Authority revealed that expats born and living in the Emirates will, as of September, be eligible to join UAE sports clubs following a Presidential decree in November.
Athletics is one of the disciplines that has been identified and young athletes from Ultimate Athletics believe it’s a great step for the UAE.
“For me, it’s really good news,” said 800-metre runner Conor O’Donovan, who hails from Ireland and joined Al Wasl recently. “Since I’m born in the UAE if I can start running for the country where I live, I would. It would be a great honour for me.
“Running for a country would be huge achievement for me or even for anyone. It would be huge. If I get picked it would be incredible.”
Anselma Ellingwood, 15, has only been in the Emirates for less than a year. But with stern competition in her homeland in the United States, the decision has given her hope she can represent her adopted country.
“It’s a really good idea,” said Ellingwood, who lived in China before. “I think the UAE has great facilities and there’s a real community of fitness over here which involves a lot of expats.
“I think if expats constantly improve, they can build a strong team. It’s great for people like me who cannot qualify for the US nationals because it’s quite competitive to participate in events. It’s given me hope that I can still represent the UAE.”
Megan Dingle, who ran the 3,000m in Thursday’s Race Night, has aspirations of representing the Great Britain but believes the announcement is great news.
She said: “It would be good to look into it. It hasn’t been opened for expats for a long time.
“I think Great Britain would be my first option, I went back and competed in the Nationals three weeks ago and my main aim would be to represent UK.
“But there are so many great athletes especially in expats and it would be great for them to compete in an international competition.”
Lisa Campbell, founder of Ultimate Athletics, revealed the positive news was something she had been working towards for more than a decade.
“It’s been my dream. Since I came to Dubai 12 years ago, this is something I’ve been working towards,” she said. “I’ve been in touch with the UAE Athletics Federation and Al Wasl club, so that as soon as we were given the go ahead, we can send people across.
“We have six people competing in President’s Cup and hopefully it will give them a chance to shine with the local athletes. Hopefully, whoever impresses can represent the local clubs and hopefully for the UAE.
“A lot of people are excited. A lot of them have been born here so it’s home for them.
“To be given the opportunity for the UAE is motivational for them and something they can strive for.”
Lisa Campbell, founder of Ultimate Athletics, was impressed with the turn-out and the quality she saw during the six rounds of the Race Night season.
Thursday’s event at Dubai Sports City brought an end to a successful 2017/18 season in which youths and adults took to the track and field and competed across various disciplines.
“It’s been a really good season,” said Campbell. “We have had a lot of new faces and people who don’t train with Ultimate Athletics heard about us and wanted to start running again and give them an opportunity to see how they fare against other athletes who train.
“We have had regular athletes who compete in Abu Dhabi and we had a lot of support from Desert Cubs. Schools have sent their athletes in abundance – Dubai College, American Community School, Jebel Ali Primary School and JESS Ranches all had big numbers, so hopefully it has improve the school athletics as well.”
She added: “Well tonight, you always get good standards because it’s the last race of the season. That means people know what the records are and they come because they want to beat the record. The last night tends to be a good number of athletes and a lot really impressed. There were some records broken even though it wasn’t the best weather as it was a bit humid and dusty but we still managed to get some good performances.”
She added: “I would also like to thank New Balance and Valiant Clinic for their support this season.”
Dannish Walker-Khan, who was part of Great Britain’s Under-23 4×100 relay European triumph in 2013, handed out the medals to winners and the 25-year-old believes Ultimate Athletics is a great competition.
“It’s really well organised and although I’ve not been to the track too many times, I just love how many kids are competing,” said Walker-Khan, who moved to Dubai less than a month ago.
The inaugural edition of the Cigna Park Run, a community outreach event aimed at promoting an active lifestyle, received an overwhelming response from Dubai’s health and fitness enthusiasts with 465 participants convening at Zabeel Park to join the 2.5 km and 5 km courses.
Cigna Corporation (NYSE:CI), the global health services company, organised the sporting event as part of its world-class health proposition, reinforcing the company’s commitment to the well-being of its customers.
Besides a free-timed run, the participants also benefited from a wide variety of allied health activities at the venue.
Qualified personal trainers offered lifestyle advice at dedicated health and fitness stations, and instructors demonstrated warm-up techniques prior to the run.
Visitors to the well-being station tried out the newly launched Cigna Wellbeing app which performs general health assessments to generate personalised health management plans for end users.
The event featured several competitions, including the Spin Wheel challenge which rewarded contestants with fitness gifts for performing certain exercises.
In addition, the organisers invited the participants to snap pictures of their best running poses at the ball pit and share them on Facebook for a chance to win an Apple Watch. An Apple iPhone was also up for grabs for completing a feedback survey.
Art Cozad, CEO of Cigna Insurance Middle East, said: “We are proud that the first-ever Cigna Park Run in Dubai witnessed such a strong uptake. In line with our dedication to creating healthy and inclusive communities, the event brought together people of all ages for a morning of fun physical activity. We are happy to play our part in motivating Dubai’s citizens and residents to take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle, and look forward to hosting many more such runs.”
The Cigna Park Run is open to all. A one-time registration fee of AED100 covers entry to all the subsequent events for the year. The next run will take place on October 6, 2018.