How New Balance and Ultimate Athletics helps athletes in the UAE realise their dreams and full potential

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Ismail Ssenyange and Hannah McLaughlin stole the show in the opening round of the Ultimate Athletics Racenight with stunning victories in the Fastest Mile powered by New Balance.

Ugandan Ssenyange stormed over the finish line in a scintillating time of 4 mins 26 secs, while McLaughlin led the way for the women with an impressive time of 5 mins 40 secs. Both athletes were rewarded with a beautiful new pair of limited edition New Balance FuelCell kit thanks to their majestic displays.

Ssenyange, 32, is no stranger to the UAE running scene and was using the mile race as preparation for the Dubai Marathon in January where he is aiming to achieve a personal best.

“I’m preparing for the Dubai Marathon and trying to achieve a time of 2 hours 15 minutes. I ran my personal best of 2 hours 18 minutes four years ago so all the preparation, including the Fastest Mile run, is preparation towards the marathon in two months time,” he said.

“It was an amazing night here at Sports City. The organisation is so good and the crowd, people supporting is something very nice.”

McLaughlin, meanwhile, was ecstatic in victory, considering this was her first mile race as she generally trains for the 400m.

The 17-year-old, who is in her final year of school at JESS Arabian Ranches, hopes to go on and study medicine at university next year. First though, she wants to get the best out of peerless running qualities for the season ahead.

“I came to the Monday sessions at New Balance Run Club just to give it a go and see how I get on. I’m just really happy with the way it’s turned out, especially to win,” said McLaughlin.

Dannish to dominate

Another man set to sparkle at Dubai Sports City with his electric pace is New Balance influencer Dannish Walker Khan.

The 27-year-old English sprinter has clocked a personal best of 10.49 seconds for the 100m and is showing no signs of slowing down. The Sheffield native, who achieved European U20 4x100m success back in 2013, hopes to make his Olympic dreams a reality for the UAE and will use the Ultimate Racenights to help fine tune his training.

“I’m going to do a few of the Ultimate Athletics race nights to see where I am at with my training,” said Khan.

“The organisation down there is amazing. I like how they are getting loads of youngsters involved too. If you can do it from an early age then it’ll be easier.”

The ones to watch

One athlete whose starring qualities is capturing the attention of athletics fans across the Emirates is Nikita Manian.

The 16-year-old is Ultimate Athletics’ most decorated sprinter, holding all the Racenight records for the 100m and 200m at under-17 level. The GEMS Motor City student started the season the same way she finished off last campaign with dominant wins in both 100m and 200m events.

“I’m really happy because its first race of the season and it’s close to my personal best,” said Manian, who clocked 12.54 secs for the 100m. “I executed the start well in the 200m. The timing was good at 26.3 so it’s a positive start. It feels nice to compete again after training for so long.”

Yannick Kraus, meanwhile, is a young pentathlete with a great future ahead of him. The 12-year-old is no stranger to sporting success, having won the Ultimate Athletics Racenight League on four successive occasions.

Picture courtesy of Melissa Lear Photography.

Picture courtesy of Melissa Lear Photography.

UAE representation

A new law passed last year allows expats – if selected – to represent the UAE for the first time ever. The athletes won’t be nationalised or given a UAE passport, but it will be for representation purposes solely.

Olympic hopeful Khan believes it is progress and that is motivating for athletes, knowing there is an opportunity to run for their adopted country if they are fast enough.

“I went down training with Al Wasl and started thinking back to my old mentality again, saying to myself ‘If I run well there is a good chance of going to the Olympics for the UAE’,” he said.

“Getting the Olympic standard is the toughest part. If I made the standard in the UK, there could be eight other people. Whereas in the UAE, you live out here and your whole life is here so if you’re asked then it’s a really nice thing. You can still go and compete which is nice. It’s definitely motivating.”

What we’re seeing now is that young athletes in the UAE, regardless of where they are from, can represent the UAE in athletics and across sport. This inclusive philosophy is sure to help the country move forward and the platform is there for athletes to represent the UAE at the Olympics and the global stage. New Balance and Ultimate Athletics are helping communities and young hopefuls reach their potential and realise their goals.

Fastest Mile Challenge 

As well as the racing itself, which got under way on Thursday, there will be a Fastest Mile Challenge where one can get their hands on a stunning new pair of limited edition FuelCells by New Balance.

The winning male and female runners on the night will be presented with their prizes by New Balance, with more athletes expected to threaten the 4 minute 20 second mark.

The community Fastest Mile will take place on November 20 at Umm Suqeim Beach, with many accolades on offer for those who have run the quickest time or have shown gradual improvements over the six week long run club.

With numbers growing every season, Ultimate Athletics require hundreds of hours of track rental, athletics equipment, facilities, coaches and physios to keep it all going.

Ultimate Athletics and New Balance partnership 

Global Athletic Brand New Balance has partnered with Ultimate Athletics for the past two years building and nurturing running communities and movement across the UAE.

The partnership continues to flourish with New Balance working in partnership with Ultimate Athletics across multiple platforms which include providing coaches with kit, prizes for the winners of the various Racenights as well as weekly NBRC run clubs held at Umm Suqeim Beach and Dubai Sports City.

There is great synergies with the partnership given New Balance’s 113 year brand history and DNA in running with both companies shared vision to enable young running stars to realise their dreams.

The future certainly looks rosy for Ultimate Athletics, with talented athletes, a strong relationship with New Balance and positive changes happening for the good of athletics in the Emirates. If you want to get involved in running, training is held at various locations around Dubai, as well as Abu Dhabi, throughout the week.

The cost to get involved on race nights is kept at a low Dh70 and they want to keep it that way in order to encourage as many athletes to participate as possible.

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