UAE triple jump coach Svetoslav Topuzov does not believe there is enough interest in track and field in the Emirates to produce athletes capable of competing at the highest level.
Topuzov has recently returned from the Olympic Games in London, where his pupil Mohamed Abbas Darwish failed to reach the triple jump final after a disappointing qualifying jump of 16.06 metres.
The Bulgarian believes Darwish, used to competing in front of crowds of less than 100, was overawed by the 80,000 people at the Olympic Stadium.
“It was the first time he saw 80,000 people and I think it was a big shock,” Topuzov told Sport360°. “He was used to competing in front of a maximum of 80 people, so it was a big stress.
“After the competition he said he was feeling good physically, but mentally it was the first time he had seen that in competition. He will be better, not only for the experience of this competition but mentally because it’s a big competition.”
He added: “All Arab competitions don’t have people. I have been to Arab Games where there have been maximum 200 people. I think they must go to Europe and play in front of people because here people don’t understand. People don’t like athletics.”
Topuzov says the problems he and his athletes face are too big for the UAE Athletic Federation, and it might be time for the government to intervene and ensure the same incentives are available to them as stars of other sports.
“There needs to be professional thinking, this is not the last problem but it is a serious problem. Maybe it isn’t a problem for the federation, maybe it is a problem for the government.”
He added: “Russia gave medals to their athletes. Every player took a car, do you know how much that would cost? Then the Mayor of Moscow gave them 1.8m rubles (Dh208,139). What happened here? Nothing.”
Darwish, whose personal best of 16.80m would have been good enough for a place in the final in London, agrees with his coach’s prognosis.
“Nobody in Dubai comes to the stadium, only the player and the manager of the team. For me, sometimes I compete outside, but more people would be nice,” he said. “But they are not coming because everybody looks for football and not athletics.”