Wednesday, November 05, 2008

[WEC Reports] UAE Riders Set for World Endurance Championship

Allaam Ousman

6 November 2008

KUALA TERENGGANU (MALAYSIA) - The six-member UAE team led by Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, were in high spirits 48 hours before the start of the 12th FEI World Endurance Championships which is being held in Malaysia for the first time.

ShaikhHamdanbinMohammedbin Rashid AlMaktoum,CrownPrince of DubaiThey have been installed as the top contenders for the world title having in their ranks accomplished riders and because of their familiarity with the tough terrain and humid weather conditions which are expected to prevail in this first ever night race on Friday.

Team member Abdullah Thani Bin Huzaim speaking to the Khaleej Times said they were well primed to aim for the title. "We are ready and confident of doing well. With a little bit of luck we could strike gold," said Bin Huzaim, who is ranked fifth in the FEI world rankings.

The UAE riders which includes Shaikh Majed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Mohammed Ahmad Al Subose, Mubarak Khalifa bin Shafya and Sultan Ahmed Sultan bin Sulayem, arrived on Monday while the horses landed on Wednesday on a special Boeing aircraft.

Asked whether they felt any pressure since they have been tagged as favourites, Bin Huzaim said they looked at it positively. "It's a night race but we have experience of night races. The humidity is nothing new to us because we experience it back home. But it will be a tough race but the same difficulties will apply to all the competitors," he said.

The weather during daytime was 25 degrees Celsius but humidity could rise up to 80 per cent. The Terengganu International Endurance Park is the first sole endurance village in south east Asia. Situated in the fishing town of Merang, 25km north of Kuala Terengganu, competitors will ride along the coastline of the South China Sea, through plantations, fishing villages and forests.

"There are a lot of trees while the fifth loop is hilly," observed Bin Huzaim after the team performed a track recce on Wednesday. "But the weather is nice, people are nice," he added.

Asked about the fitness of the horses, he said: "All are in good condition. We are ready."

Asian Games gold medallist Shaikh Hamdan is set to ride Jazyk. Shaikh Majid will be aboard European Open campaigner Spenda Crest Kamouflage.

Shafya is booked on Zakah Zahara, Sulayem on Tazoul El Parry, world no. 4 Al Subose will be riding Koum Des Jamets and Bin Huzaim Castlebar Kadeen.

A total of 133 riders from 32 countries have assembled for this world championship which will be cover a distance of 160km divided into seven stages.

Meanwhile, Uruguay believe it is their turn to win the title having in their midst world no.2 Juan Miguel Pio Olascoaga Amaga, the highest ranked rider in this competition. However, they have never won a title in the World Endurance Championship since its inception in 1986.

Amaya, 28, a winner of two 160-km titles this year, said he and his teammates have the experience to wrest the title from hot favourites the United Arab Emirates and France.

"We have been training hard and our horses have adapted well to the humidity. We like the track as it's flat and soft.

"I hope to compete both in the individual and team events for Uruguay," said Amaya. "As the top seed in the individual event, the pressure will be on me to perform. My strategy on race day is to get a head start and maintain my speed throughout. I need to opt for this strategy as my main rivals will be doing the same."

UAE on the other hand produced the youngest and first male winner of the world championship in Jerez, Spain in 2002 when Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed won the coveted title. UAE also have come close to claiming the team title on several occasions.

The World Endurance Championship was officially inaugurated on Wednesday night by the Malaysian King Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium following a spectacular opening ceremony.

Ian Williams, non-Olympic sports director of FEI, the world body governing equestrian sports, read out a special message on behalf of FEI head Princess Haya bint Hussein, wife of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, expressing her inability to attend the event. Princess Haya wished everyone a great competition, a sporting competition and great endurance competition.

The ceremony began with a colourful dance ensemble with the theme Malaysia Welcomes the World 'Selamat Datang' followed by the march past of the participating teams.

Another eye-catching performance was the performance by Malaysia singers, a horse show by Lorenzo, the Flying Frenchman, and a dazzling fireworks display.

Posted By Merri to WEC Reports at 11/05/2008 10:58:00 PM

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