Muscat: Oman’s young Olympic hopefuls showed they were on a par with the best sailors in Asia after a promising round of performances at the 2016 Asian Sailing Championship which took place in Abu Dhabi from March 5 to 12.
Musab Al Hadi and Hashim Al Rashdi, Oman’s top 49er sailors who are targeting a spot at the 2020 Olympic Games, swept to victory in three of their final four races to achieve their best ever result with a bronze medal. Their speeds in the light airs gave them the edge in the final nail biting medal race which left them trailing the Korean 49er team of Bongjin Chae and Dongwook Kim by just a single point and ten points adrift of winners Yukio Makino and Kenji Takahashi of Japan.
Coached by Gwen Gbick, the 49er pair showed they had a head for tactics and an appetite for success, said Alain Champy, Oman Sail’s Head of Performance who accompanied the squad to Abu Dhabi where 138 sailors from 21 nations competed in six Olympic classes.
“Musab and Hashim showed they had good speed in light wind and had a first rate strategy upwind,” said Champy. “They seemed to get better as the week went and considering they have only been racing in the 49ers for one year, we were very encouraged. These two like this boat and they like to sail together so we think they have a chance of qualifying for the Olympics in the future.”
Oman’s Laser sailors Hussein Al Jabri and Ahmed Al Hasani, coached by Sam Lelievre also showed they were in contention with a 15th and 21st place respectively which placed the Sultanate in third place overall in the team table.
Top RS:X windsurfer Waleed Al Kindi was back in action after a forced 12-month break from a back injury and showed how hard he has worked to recover his fitness with an encouraging return, the light airs giving his stronger fitter rivals a clear advantage over the week.
“This was the first time they had competed in the Asian Sailing Championships and all the coaches were impressed by the way they never gave up. They always held their focus even if they had some bad races," Champy added.
“The Laser and the 49er have seen that they can sail with the top Asian sailors. We have to validate what they have learnt in Abu Dhabi in the coming phase. For the first time, we felt as if there was a sense of ‘Team Oman’ with everyone pulling together and doing their best. It was quite exciting.”
For some competitors, the next big event could be the Asian Games in two years in Malaysia though Musab Al Hadi and Hashim Al Rashdi will start preparing for the 49er European Championships in Barcelona in April while the Olympic squad will travel to Medemblik in May for Delta Lloyd Olympic Week.