Mohammed Al Balooshi has spoken of his pride of representing the UAE and has vowed to do all he can and achieve the best possible result in the Dakar Rally.
The Emirati was one of the 166 riders to begin Saturday’s opening 278km stage of the world’s most notorious cross-country endurance race in the Peruvian capital of Lima.
Al Balooshi will be hoping to complete all 14 stages of the two-week grueling race which will see the field tackle different terrains as they cross into Bolivia before finishing in Argentina. If he does cross the finish line, he will have completed more than 8,000km.
Al Balooshi is one just two Emiratis competing in the 40th edition of the Dakar Rally with Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi lining in the cars category.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) January 7, 2018
And Al Balooshi is relishing the opportunity of testing himself against the world’s best over the next fortnight in what he describes as his most ‘dangerous’ race.
“I feel very proud of having the chance to bring the UAE’s colors to Dakar,” he said. “This is the most difficult and dangerous race in the world for the bikes, and for me, as a rally rider, it’s a challenge I must take on.
“Most of the riders who have won Dakar in the past, have had to make many attempts before being able to even complete the race, and that alone speaks about the pressure, the top level of competition and the huge danger we go through every day here.
“I feel grateful for having this privilege and will do my best to represent the values of our people and ‘The Year of Zayed’ along the way.”
There is no shortage of top sporting events in the Emirates and here’s our one-stop diary of everything that’s going on — welcome to our weekly feature, What’s Up UAE.
The festive season is approaching and while many have holiday plans in store, there’s still plenty of sport to enjoy in the Emirates.
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Here’s our run-down of some of this week’s sporting events:
LIWA SPORTS FESTIVAL
Thursday, December 28 – Friday, January 5
The region’s most powerful four-wheel drives return to face new challenges, as well as drag races, bike races, motocross tracks, camel and horse races, classic car competitions and freestyle drifting.
Standing at over 300m and inclined at a 50° angle, daredevils will race to the top of one of the world’s highest sand hills in various brackets dependent on car and bike types.
The nine-day festival offers a week-long celebration of Emirati heritage with competitions and activities such as bike riding and camping available to guests around the Moreeb Dune.
Visitors will also be able to take advantage of the onsite facilities and services to make camping a memorable, yet comforting experience to remember for many years to come.
GULF CUP SEMI-FINAL – UAE VS IRAQ
Tuesday, January 2
UAE take on Iraq for a place in the Gulf Cup final on Tuesday.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s men finished runners-up in Group A after a goalless draw against Kuwait in their final group game on Thursday.
The Whites will face an Iraq side who were dominant in Group B – with wins over Yemen and Qatar and a draw against Bahrain.
Elsewhere, Bahrain are in action against Oman in the other semi-final.
RACING AT MEYDAN
Thursday, January 4
The fifth race of the season gets underway at Meydan this week as local and regional racers battle it out for spots in premiere races like the Dubai World Cup carnival and ultimately the season-ending Dubai World Cup in March 2018.
The first race at the venue is expected to be a highly competitive meet and the action begins at 6.30pm.
General admission is AED 50 at the venue while there are hospitality options to sit in Meydan’s new Grandstand.
VENUE: Meydan Racecourse
MORE INFO: Meydan Racing
UAE WOODEN POWERBOAT CHAMPIOSHIP
Friday, January 5
One of the only events of its kind in the region, the UAE Wooden Powerboat Championship sees drivers from all over the region competing in Al Shawaheef powerboats.
These 28ft vessels link modern technologies with the UAE’s heritage, and are piloted by either one or two drivers.
VENUE: Dubai International Marine Club
ADSC AL WATHBA INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL
Saturday, January 6
The Abu Dhabi Sports Council presents the Individual Time Trial at Al Wathba Cycle Track in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The race for men will be 46km – completing first the 30km loop and finishing on the 16km loop – with the ladies doing a single 30km loop.
Riders will start from 10am.
VENUE: Al Wathba Cycle Track
Defending champions Tamirat Tola and Worknesh Degefa will lead a world-class field of distance runners when the 2018 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon gets underway on January 26, 2018.
Tola, who set a new course record, 2h:04m:11s, for the world’s richest marathon in January 2017, and fellow Ethiopian Degefa, have confirmed they will join more than 30,000 other runners in the Middle East’s biggest mass participation sporting event in what is a major boost to the organisers.
For Tola – whose win in Dubai is the tenth fastest Marathon time in history – a return to the UAE has always been a high priority. The 2016 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist took more than two minutes off his previous best when winning in Dubai and is convinced he could easily have broken the 2:04 mark on the flat and fast roads of the city.
“It’s a great compliment to Dubai that Tamirat has decided to run in January and not compete in the London Marathon in April,” said Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Race Director Peter Connerton. “He is a wonderful young talent and at 26 has many great years ahead of him, which is why so many race directors would like him in their line-up. The fact he believes he can attack our course again in January and secure yet another personal best can only be good for the event.”
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the marathon will be staged in conjunction with a 10km Road Race and a 4km Fun Run.
For Worknesh Degefa, it will be a welcome return to the scene of her greatest victory – in 2017 she also stormed to first place and the $200,000 prize money with what was a winning marathon debut of 2h:22m:36s, the fourth fastest time in the event’s history.
The diminutive 27 year-old had already shown she was a superlative half-marathon runner over a four-year period prior to stepping up to the longer distance, finishing 17 times in under 70 minutes. Her Dubai success has only strengthened her reputation and she will start as a hot favourite to make it two in a row in the Emirates.
“We will be able to confirm more elite athletes field over the coming two weeks but it is safe to say we are delighted to welcome back the two runners who won both the men and women’s events in 2017,” added Connerton. “We will also be finalising the Marathon route with one or two changes to the course for 2018.”
In addition to Standard Chartered as title sponsor, the Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Masafi Natural Water, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.