UAE sport has never been in a better place. From athletics to football, cycling and equestrian, there is the exciting prospect of success in Tokyo 2020 Olympics, now less than one year away.
And with so many promising athletes around the Emirates, New Balance, in partnership with Ultimate Athletics, are determined to help unearth these fearlessly independent talents and provide a platform for them to realise their dreams and aspirations.
Running is at the forefront of New Balance’s popularity in the sports market and, having sponsored Olympic medalists Emma Coburn and Jenny Simpson to name a few, thousands of athletes across the world wear their innovative and cutting-edge shoes to deliver on their day-to-day fitness routines and programs.
With local runners dusting off their spikes ahead of the new Ultimate Athletics season which gets under way on November 14, New Balance influencer Dannish Walker-Khan is one to watch.
The 27-year-old English-born sprinter, who races over 100m and 200m distances, is hoping to make his Olympic dreams a reality for his adopted country.
Formerly trained by Great Britain legend Linford Christie, Khan was part of a star-studded England relay team of Adam Gemili, Deji Tobais and Danny Talbot that achieved European U23 4x100m success back in 2013.
Despite taking a brief sabbatical from competition three years ago, the Birchfield man is brimming with confidence again as he aims to challenge for a seat on the plane to Tokyo next July.
“Running has always been a passion of mine. I stopped competing briefly about three years ago and, when I moved to Dubai last year, I played a bit of rugby with my friends, just to try something different,” said Khan, who has clocked a personal best of 10.49 secs for the 100m.
“I was asked to come down and compete for Al Wasl Club in the President’s Cup a few months later. I went back to training 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’.”
Originally from the steel city of Sheffield, Khan’s steely determination and lionhearted attitude could see him achieve his life-long dream of competing at the Olympics, but first he must build on race pace and achieve necessary qualifying times.
“In January and February, I’m going to compete in the UK Indoor Championships for 60m, then at the end of April and the start of May, it is the President’s Cup and UAE National Championships,” he said.
“I’ll do a few of the Ultimate Athletics race nights as well to see where I am at with the training. 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.”
New Balance are keen to strike a balance between rewarding success and taking steps towards a future in sport by supporting running in the UAE, so they will be looking to seed more athletes, such as Walker-Khan, with shoes and apparel.
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Had an awesome time the other day shooting with @newbalancegcc down at the beach 🏝 Great launch for the new running shoe FUEL CELL 🔋 an awesome shoe to hit some speeds and being super light at the same time - no clomp clompness in these shoes that’s for sure 👟 Every week New Balance will be holding a #NewBalanceRunClub #NBRC down at Umm Suqeim Beach at 6.15am & Monday at 7.15pm ya DIA Barsha with @ultimateathleticsuae taking charge of things From now until 20th November we will be gearing towards the New Balance fastest mile - where the fastest time, most improved runner & coaches MVP will all get a beautiful gift of the fuel cell shoe & more extra goodies! Normally you can get these in @gosportme but why not come down and try and win a pair for free - and improve your speed at the same time!! 🏃🏾♂️💨 Huge thanks to @melissalearphotography for making us all look prettier than we are 😂 @andyclem_400h @joemaynard_athlete @ultimateathleticsuae @_thejulia @rania.boucher @leotribefitness @aringo_200 @nikita.bianca
Another athlete whose searing pace and sheer class is capturing the attention of athletics fans around 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, and she is also the DASSA schools record holder.
To underline her vast talents, Manian made the 100m final at the Gothenburg Youth Games in Sweden in June – a prestigious annual global competition for athletes between the ages of twelve and nineteen.
“It was an eye opener. I got to experience tough competition. I was able to see the standards outside of the UAE. I was shocked because I’ve never seen a big stadium and serious athletes of this level before,” said Manian, who has lived in Dubai for eight years.
A Year 13 student at GEMS Metropole in Motor City, Manian combines student life with a gruelling training schedule as she prepares for the first Ultimate Athletics Racenight on Thursday.
“I try to use my time in school as much as possible. I study by the track sometimes until we have training. I normally train Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. We are focusing on speed right now ahead of the new season. We just finished our endurance block which was really tough,” she said.
“I’m trying to convert everything into speed now. The target is to win the Ultimate Athletics series again and achieve a new personal best.”
Ultimate Athletics and New Balance are working with Manian to help her beat personal best times and achieve her lofty goals.
Manian’s current personal best is 12.44 secs for the 100m and 25.7 for the 200m – both of which are remarkable times and can be lowered if she performs to the same elevated levels as last season.
“I want to reach 12.2 seconds and get to the lower end of 25 seconds in the 200m. I also want to go for the Nationals in India next year. I came 3rd in the 200m this year. I hope to qualify for that next year,” she added.
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.
Kraus is coming off a summer to remember after a string of stunning performances saw him leap to the top of the German national rankings for his age-group.
“This year was the first time that I competed abroad, and I was very happy that I am now leading the German rankings in Pentathlon,” said Kraus, who attends JESS school at Arabian Ranches.
“I always aim to improve my personal bests. I also want to compete internationally, for example go back to Germany and defend my top position in the national rankings in my age group.
“What I like about the Ultimate Athletics Racenights is that you need to be good in multiple disciplines and show consistency across the whole season.
“It’s fun to meet other athletes and we keep pushing each other to continuously get better.”
New Balance’s goal of enabling athletes to realise their ambitions rings true through the partnership with Ultimate Athletics and their precocious crop of talents such as Khan, Manian and Kraus.
Ultimate Athletics and New Balance have lit a match for the UAE athletics scene and a bright future is anticipated. Right now, by helping these young talents reach their athletic dreams it’s certainly proving to be an inspirational journey for all involved.
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