The UAE will field 13 athletes at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which is the third-largest participation in the country’s history in the Games.
Two of the athletes participated in previous Olympics, skeet shooter Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, who will contest his fifth consecutive edition, and middle distance runner Betlhem Belayneh, who made her debut in London four years ago.
Here’s a look at all the Emiratis who will be competing in Rio.
TRACK AND FIELD
BETLHEM BELAYNEH – 1,500m runner
Date of birth: November, 13, 1991
The Ethiopian-born Emirati will be making her second consecutive appearance at the Olympics. She placed 12th in her heat in the 1,500m in the London 2012 Games. Belayneh owns four Asian Championships gold medals and ran a personal best 4:03.70 in a meet in Beijing last May.
Her preparation saw her take 1,500m gold in the 2016 KBC Night of Athletics in Heusden, Belgium last month. She pulled her hamstring during that race however, and is hoping to be ready for the 1,500m heats in Rio on August 12.
SAUD AL ZAABI – 1,500m runner
Date of birth: August 7, 1988
Al Zaabi is making a monster leap from being a local 800m specialist running for the Abu Dhabi police, to competing on the world’s grandest stage.
Has never represented the UAE in any non-police-related meets regionally or internationally but was selected by the UAE Athletics Federation to use the wildcard awarded to them from the IAAF. Has been training at high-altitude in Morocco for the past month.
ALIA SAEED – 10,000m runner
Date of birth: May 18, 1991
A gold medal winner at the 2014 Asian Games and the 2015 Asian Athletics Championships, Saeed is looking to take her continental dominance to the Olympics.
AISHA AL BALUSHI – 58kg Date of birth: January 23, 1992
The 24-year-old will check a lifelong dream off her bucket list when she competes in Rio. Was chosen to represent the UAE at the Olympics by the Emirates Weightlifting Federation as the highest achiever in April’s Asian Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
YOUSIF MIRZA – Road race
Date of birth: October 8, 1988
The region’s best rider is the first Emirati cyclist to take part in the Olympics road race and has placed the UAE on the Asian cycling map. The Olympics road race is a daunting 241.5km long.
SAEED AL MAKTOUM – Skeet
Date of birth: October 1, 1976
Has appeared at every Olympics since Sydney 2000, where he had his best showing, placing ninth. Was 13th in London 2012. Won the ISS F World Cup Finals gold medal in 2011. Brings a wealth of experience to the team.
SAIF BIN FUTTAIS – Skeet
Date of birth: September 2, 1973
The skeet shooter claimed an Olympic quota for the UAE by winning gold at the ISS F World Cup Shotgun in Larnaca, Cyprus last year in April. Also took gold at the Asia Olympic Qualifying last February even though he was no longer fighting for a Rio spot.
KHALID AL KAABI – Double Trap
Date of birth: June 25, 1985
Secured his place at the Olympics at the very last chance possible, at the Asia Olympic Qualifying Campetition in New Delhi in January, by grabbing gold in Double Trap. Is coached by the UAE’s only Olympic medallist, 2004 champion Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher Al Maktoum.
VICTOR SCVORTOV – 73kg
Date of birth: March 30, 1988
The world No25 Moldovan-born Emirati became the first judoka to win a World Championship medal for UAE when he took bronze in 2014. Won the Abu Dhabi and Budapest Grands Prix in 2014 and took silver in Havana this year.
SERGIU TOMA -81kg
Date of birth: January 29, 1987
Ranked No9 in the world in his class, Toma is considered a genuine medal contender for the UAE. The naturalised Moldovan represented his country of birth at the London 2012 Olympics, where he lost in the third round. Won World Championship bronze in 2011 and has four Grand Prix golds.
IVAN REMARENCO – 100kg
Date of birth: August 7, 1988
Represented his country of birth, Moldova at the London 2012 Olympics but has since switched allegiance to the UAE. Won bronze at the World Championships in 2014 and is currently ranked 36 in the world in his weight class. Best results this year are two fifth-place finishes in Samsun and Havana GPs.
NADA AL BEDWAWI – 50m freestyle
Date of birth: August 8, 1997
The UAE’s first female Olympic swimmer will be carrying the country’s flag in the the opening ceremony. Originally a backstroke specialist but was given a wildcard entry for 50 free.
YAQOOB AL SAADI – 100m backstroke
Date of birth: June 13, 1993
Making his Olympics debut, Al Saadi, who swims for Al Ain club, is hoping to break his personal best and set a new UAE national record in the 100m backstroke.
The Arab world is heading to Rio with a packed contingent of athletes as countries continue to invest heavily in making Olympic sports a priority.
And this year, maybe more so than any other before, there are a number of Arab hopefuls in with a real chance of claiming medals in Brazil.
Here, Sport360 reporter Reem Abulleil looks at five of the region’s brightest prospects.
MUTAZ BARSHIM (QAT)
A bronze medallist in London 2012, Qatar’s Barshim has revolutionised the high jump since, getting closer to breaking Javier Sotomayor’s 23-year-old 2.45m world record than anyone else has ever got. Is the only athlete to jump 2.40m this season.
FEHAID AL DEEHANI (KUW)
The two-time Olympic bronze medallist (Sydney 2000, London 2012) shooter will not be flying the Kuwaiti flag due to his Olympic Committee’s suspension and will be competing as an independent athlete instead under the IOC flag. Is one of the favourites in double trap.
The Kenyan-born Bahraini became just the second woman to ever break the nine minute barrier in the 3,000m steeplecase when she clocked a world-leading 8:59.97 in Eugene in May. She was running at world record pace until the very last lap and looks set for a show-stopping Rio Games.
FARIDA OSMAN (EGY)
The Egyptian sprint swimmer clocked the second-fastest 50 yard freestyle ever in the Pac-12 meet in the US last February, swimming for the Cal Bears. She’s a former world junior champion and was seventh in the 50 fly at the Worlds in 2013, and fifth in 2015. The Rio podium beckons.
TAOUFIK MAKHLOUFI (ALG)
The Algerian’s astonishing story from London 2012 saw him get disqualified from the Olympics for not trying hard enough in the 800m, then get reinstated and winning the 1,500m gold 24 hours later. He’s entered in both the 800 and 1,500 in Rio. Is fourthfastest in the 1,500 this year.