Extreme athletes to make UAE history at Asian Champs
Five extreme sports athletes will make UAE history later this month when they become the first people to represent the Gulf nation at the Asian Extreme Sports Championship in Malaysia.
Including those representing the Emirates in Kuala Lumpur, the Middle East will provide a total of 16 participants; two from Kuwait, Afghanistan, Oman, Lebanon, and one each from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Pakistan.
The event will host competition in skateboarding, in-line skating, and BMX. Representing the UAE will be 13-year-old BMXer Mubarak Rashed Al Hajeri, 24-year-old in-line skater Alan Khinchagov, 19-year-old skateboarder Karim Nassar, 22-year-old inline skater Sobhan Sohaili Manish, and 16-year-old skateboarder Khaled Al Dhaheri.
For the event, held from June 28 to 30, the team was carefully chosen by Asian Extreme Sports Federation Vice President – and former pro skater - Sameh Gauch.
Gauch is certainly qualified to select and lead such a team having been the first professional Arab skater to receive international sponsorship and compete in global competitions.
The Lebanese-born skater played a major role in developing the UAE’s skate scene and has been the driving force behind such events as the National Extreme League.
The progression of the region’s extreme sports scene is evident in the amount of participants entered for the 2013 Asian Extreme Sports Championships, explains Gauch.
"The Middle East has had very little representation in past Games. Last year, we had only two countries represented from the Middle East, but this year we choose 16 athletes from eight countries,” he said.
"With the Asian Championships coming up, a whole new sector will be exposed to extreme sports, including the younger generation. In Asia alone, there are over 80 million people that participate in extreme sports.”
While it is still early days for the UAE and other Gulf nations in their relationship with extreme sports, Gauch believes there is already great potential coming through.
"We have international calibre talent in these country both nationals and expatriates,” Gauch added. “Khaled Al Dhaheri is just 16 and is part of the Malaysia-bound team. He has participated in over 20 local competitions and is regarded as one of the best skateboarders in the UAE."
The youngest of the UAE quintet heading for Malaysia is Emirati Al Hajeri, who despite only taking up BMXing less than a year ago is ready to take on Asia's finest.
"I learnt BMX Freestyle from my friend, nine month ago. I loved the skill and display, and now I’m representing my country in Asian Championship," he said.
"Our country has a tradition of sports; we are a people who have survived by pushing our physical limits and look at the remarkable achievements.
"If you get extreme sports in a proper manner into the country, there will be many interested to become a part of it. It can help channel young energy. Any sport is a discipline which helps young minds develop."
Meanwhile, Gauch has revealed he is working hard to bring next year’s Asian Extreme Sports Championships to Abu Dhabi.
Al Dhaheri is certainly excited about Gauch's future plans: "Making UAE a extreme sports hub is definitely a possibility… the place has a very global environment, and many people come here for entertainment, " he said.