Ayesha Al Balushi believes she can leave the Rio 2016 Olympics with her head held high after she smashed her personal best mark in the 58kg weightlifting competition.
The 24-year-old lifted a total of 162kg to rank seventh in Group B, faltering on her final attempt to lift 94kg for the first time in her career.
“Thank God I feel like I have accomplished my mission at my first Olympics and that I raised the UAE flag and showed that an Emirati woman is capable of achieving great things against all odds,” said Al Balushi, who is the second UAE female weightlifter to compete at the Olympics, following Khadija Mohammed in London 2012.
“I would like send this message to everyone back home and tell them ‘raise your heads high, I am the daughter of the UAE and I am here, at the biggest sporting event in the world.’”
“I hope that I did my country proud and represented it in the best way possible and that I was a positive image for UAE women. The UAE is full of talent that is capable of accomplishing great things and I hope that my participation at the Olympics opens the door for other female athletes and paves the way for them to compete at major events.”
Al Balushi is hoping that the sport would get more attention following her efforts in Rio as she eyes further success in weightlifting.
“I learnt a lot from my Olympic experience, not just from a technical perspective but also from a lifestyle perspective. Mingling with world champions, seeing how they train, how they live their day-to-day live at the Athletes’ Village… all this has given me great motivation for future events and I already have my eyes on the gold medal in the upcoming West Asia Championships,” she added.
“I did my best after a very short preparation camp of just two weeks, so imagine how much better I could have done had I been able to prepare properly. I believe the upcoming period requires more attention from officials as it is absolutely necessary to travel abroad for preparation camps so I can achieve my goals and improve my level.”
There is no shortage of top sporting drama on day four at the Games, with equestrian team and individual events as well as canoeing.
But the biggest draw without doubt is the men’s 200m butterfly final.
Defending champion Chad Le Clos surprised the 19-time Olympic champion Phelps in the same event four years ago in London – will the South African win gold again this time around?
Britain’s most decorated male swimmer Mark Foster believes Phelps will be beaten once again in Tuesday’s highly anticipated 200m butterfly final.
Foster has predicted a victory for defending champion Chad le Clos of South Africa, with Hungarian László Cseh taking the silver and Phelps the bronze.
“I honestly don’t know – I think it’s going to be that tight,” said Foster. “Even in London, I lost a lot of money when Chad beat Michael.
“Michael looked a little bit heavy this morning. He’ll undoubtedly go faster as will Chad. He’s got more and László has got more.”
In Monday night’s semi-finals, it was another Hungarian, Tamas Kenderesi, who went fastest with Phelps second, Cseh third and Le Clos fourth. Le Clos had, however, swum his way to 200m freestyle silver earlier in the evening.
“The three different styles of swimming are so interesting to watch,” continued Foster. “Michael’s a bit crabby and Chad’s a bit like that and László has a really long, lopey stroke. They’re all amazing underwater,” added Foster who competed in five Olympics, claimed six world titles and broke the world record eight times.
“I feel for László because he’s never won one. He’s come second to Michael so many times before. It’ll be a 1:52 final and I know Chad, László and Michael can do that.
“If I had to pick one – historically I would never ever have bet against Michael Phelps in the 200 fly until Chad beat him so that changed my opinion, knowing that he is now beatable.
“Michael’s not come back (from his brief retirement) to make the numbers up. You could see in the relay last night how much he misses that and it’s going to be over soon. I think he wanted one more here. I think he probably thought he’d get to 20 Olympic gold medals, which he will.
“He’s won one in the (4x100m freestyle) relay and he’ll win one in the 4×100 medley relay. If I’m brutally honest, if I put my neck on the line, I have a feeling Michael won’t win tomorrow because I think he was heavy this morning and he tied up towards the end.
“Whether he ate a bowl of pasta or not, I don’t know. I’ve never seen him like that and that makes him beatable. So I think László or Chad. Chad, Laszlo, Michael – there’s your one, two, three.”