UAE’s Yasmin Tahlak ended her campaign at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, with a Round of 16 showing in the 10m air rifle mixed international teams shooting competition at the Fangshan venue on Friday.
The 18-year-old shooter teamed up with Italian Marco Suppini in the newly-introduced event, which was being staged for the first time at the summer games.
Tahlak and Suppini made it through the qualifying rounds placing eighth with a total of 817.2 points, just eight points behind leaders Fernanda Russo and Jose Santos Valdes Martinez.
In the Round of 16, the Italian-Emirati pair were beaten 10-4 by Germany’s Julia Budde and Argentina’s Lucas Decicilia.
“I enjoyed it, it was fun, even though I didn’t win a medal,” Tahlak told Sport360°. “This mixed teams event is a new one and I think it’s a really good idea.
“First of all, it’s your second chance to win a medal, and second is that your partner is from a whole different place, different culture. You get to communicate with your partner, it’s cool. Meeting new people and all.”
The gold medal was won by Egyptian-Hungarian duo, Hadir Mekhimar and Istvan Peni, who beat Russo and Valdes Martinez 10-2 in the final.
In sailing, UAE’s Hamad Al Hammadi was unable to compete yesterday as the Byte CII races were cancelled due to lack of wind at the Jinniu Lake venue.
But since the minimum required six races have already been completed, a single final race will still take place today, weather permitting.
UAE-based adventurer Adrian Hayes, who recently conquered K2, will start planning his new expedition challenge when he returns to Dubai next month.
Hayes summited the second highest mountain last month, 60 years after the first conquest of K2, and almost a year to the day after his first attempt was aborted due to bad weather.
Regarded as the world’s most difficult mountain to climb, Hayes and Canadian team-mate Al Hancock reached the summit after travelling 8,611m over five days.
“I know what I’m doing next year but I will have to talk to stakeholders and will start organising and planning for that in September,” said Hayes, who has now returned to the UK for a short break.
“There’s nothing certain as of now.”
The ending was predictable with the US continuing their dominance in claiming a third-straight gold, but the FIBA U17 World Championship was more about the journey than the destination. Pardon the cliche, but in this case it really rings true.
What the US did was impressive, but at this level where the players aren’t professional athletes, rather high school kids, the tournament’s spirit is more about putting on a showcase for young talent than crowning a champion. This year, that was more than fulfilled.
Seven countries made their first appearance, including crowd-favourites Philippines and host nation UAE. Neither team had much success on the court, but just reaching the World Championship was a clear win.
Philippines coach Michael Jarin and UAE coach Zoran Zubcevic were both realistic about their squad’s slim chances, but they were also happy just to see the countries represented with the chance to face some of the best international competition in the world.
While the Philippines haven’t lacked interest in basketball at a grassroots level, the UAE have had challenges making the sport appealing to their youth. Football will always be the biggest sport in the region, followed by cricket. Basketball is more foreign, but it’s starting to catch on as the UAE is exposed more and more to the game.
In just the last three months, the region has hosted three significant basketball tournaments, each topping the one prior.
The hardwood action began in May with the MENA Basketball Showcase, which brought talent from 17 countries across the region in the UAE’s version of the high-profile McDonald’s All-American Game in the US.
Then in June, MPAC invited four of the top high school programmes in the US, as well as a team consisting of MENA players, to compete in the Elite International event.
Now with the conclusion of the FIBA U17 World Championship, basketball in the UAE is more prevalent. The three tournaments escalated in size and brought over international talent.
The MENA Showcase and MPAC Elite Tournament were also inaugural efforts, while the World Championship was the first FIBA event hosted in the Middle East. It’s evident the sport is just scratching the surface in the region.
The UAE has two factors working in its favour to grow basketball. One is that the nation has a thirst for hosting sporting events of all kinds and are willing to spend for it. The second is that the NBA are pioneers when it comes to spreading their league across the world.
As the MPAC Elite Tournament and World Championship showed, if you bring the best players in their age group, people will pay attention. It’s not a stretch to think the UAE could be treated to exhibition NBA games in the future as part of the “NBA Global Games” initiative.
The cool thing about living in the UAE is that the country still continues to develop and build on its foundation. Sport is just as much a part of that as any other venture.
The destination might be unknown, but the journey is proving that the UAE are doing everything they can to expand basketball. So far, they’re succeeding.