Winners over defending champions Surprise on the opening day, F3 ‘A’ booked their place in the semi-final of the 6th Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament’s volleyball competition with a straight sets win over Raptor on Saturday night.
Led by their Cuban star Yosvany Hernandez, who was in scorching form and scored a match-high 26 points, F3 ‘A’ took the opening two sets 25-19, 25-17 before fighting back from 18-23 in the third to prevail 35-33 in a nail-biting finish.
Their win means Surprise and Raptor will now battle for the second semi-final spot in Group A.
“It is really nice to finish the group engagements with two wins from two matches,” said Hernandez.
“We had to fight to get both those wins, and this will certainly help us in the knockout stages. It shows the character of the team – we never give up and fight as a unit, which is the most important thing.
“Going into the knockout stages with two wins also means that we have the momentum with us, and we hope to use this momentum to take us all the way. We have got two more matches and we have to make sure we continue in the same way and not let our guard down.”
In Group B, F3 and Spinneys are through to the knockout stages of the tournament, but the group topper will be decided when they face-off in the final match of the group stages. Leader Sport, the third team in the group, finished their campaign without a point following their loss to Spinneys on Saturday night.
Defeated by F3 in their opening match, Leader Sport seemed cruising towards victory after taking the opening two sets, but Spinneys fought back to win 21-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-12, bringing Leader Sport’s campaign to an early end.
Meanwhile, the 3×3 Basketball competition got underway at Dubai Festival City Mall, with 61 teams, representing 38 different nationalities, in action. There are 28 teams taking part in the men’s section, 16 in the women’s, 12 in the boy’s competition and five in the girls.
“This 3×3 Basketball is a very simple game, easy to play and very popular, as you can see from the number of teams taking part,” said Maitha Bin Dhawi, a member of the Board of Directors of the UAE Women’s Basketball Committee.
“So we are really pleased to see 3×3 Basketball becoming a part of the NAS Sports Tournament. We are also happy to see so many women and girls taking part, and hopefully this tournament will lead to even more people taking up this sport.”
In the NAS Padel competition, the pair of Mohammed Mansouri and Guillermo Villafane defeated Sachin Talwar and Dean Macfarlane 6-4, 6-1, while Sheikh Saeed Hasher Al Maktoum and Omar Sharif Al Marzooqi lost 6-1, 6-2 to Emilio Missas and Carlos Luna. In the team competition, Por5 Team defeated Sky Team 6-1, 6-0.
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.