DUBAI // Public school pupils battled it out for the top place at several sporting events at the second School Olympics championship on Saturday.
The pupils, aged between 9 and 12, displayed their prowess in gymnastics, athletics, swimming, archery and fencing in a final showdown in which more than 1,000 students from 10 educational zones across the UAE took part.
Students said they had trained rigorously to prepare for the finals.
“I have been training for the past three months,” said Abdulla Ismail, 13, a student at Saif Al Dhoula School in Fujairah, after showcasing his dexterity in somersaults at the Dubai Police Officers Club.
“I am hoping to win,” he said.
His coach said eight of his pupils were vying for the top spot.
“We have a lot of good students participating,” said Mohammed Fawzi, a gymnastics instructor.
“A lot of them like gymnastics as it helps them keep fit and teaches them techniques that can be used in other sports.”
Mohammed Ali, 11, a student at the Rashid bin Humaid School in Ajman, was entered in two sports.
“I am taking part in gymnastics and swimming. I’ve been practising for the past four months. I hope I can win.”
The Ministry of Education, which is organising the event, said the goal was to prepare future champions and tackle obesity, a growing health problem among children in the UAE.
“Obesity is an issue,” said Mohamed Ali Mohamed, physical education and health senior supervisor at the ministry.
“We also want to ready students for regional competitions.
“Students are very excited to take part in the competition. It is a good opportunity to get the support of families as well.”
He said the competitions were getting tougher each year.
“This year is much better than last year in performance and skills. We expect the knowledge, skills and fitness levels to increase in the next five years.”
Mr Mohamed said they would add judo and taekwondo at next year’s event, which is taking place under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid, president of the National Olympic Committee.
Some parents had also gathered to cheer on their children.
“My son has been training for the past four years in gymnastics,” said Walid Saleh, father of Khalid Al Kindi, 12.
“It is helping him be fit and build muscles. All families should encourage children to learn sports so they are physically fit.”
Hassan Lootah, director of physical education and head of the educational zones committee for the School Olympics at the ministry, said: “The Olympics serves as a main venue for us to find and select the outstanding sports programmes among UAE schools as well as discover young Emirati athletes who can be recruited to join our national sports teams.
“Rigorous planning and preparations have been done to ensure the success of this project and to provide support to the overall sports industry in line with the vision and directives of the wise UAE leadership.”
Winners will receive cash prizes and medals. While gold medalists will be given Dh3,000, educational zones will also receive cash awards. The education zone with the most winners will receive Dh50,000.
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