MUSCAT — Oman’s fledgling team of young windsurfers sampled competition at the highest level when they competed in Garda Eurolymp 2013 recently, lining up against some of the biggest names in the sport. According to a press release issued by Oman Sail yesterday, the week-long event on Lake Garda in Italy was the first European competition in the careers of three windsurfers Waleed al Kindi, Faisal al Quataiti and Khalfan al Athubi who are spearheading Oman Sail’s Olympic windsurfing campaign.
All three have been preparing and racing now for just 18 months but competing against the likes of London 2012 gold medal winner Dorian van Rijsselberghe from Holland and Nick Dempsey the silver medallist from Britain, the team enjoyed a steep but useful learning curve in Italy. “Our aim is to compete in the Olympic Games in 2020 so this event was all about understanding where they are in terms of the international competition and what they need to do to earn selection for the Olympic Games,” said Koray Ezer, Oman’s National Windsurf Coach.
“This showed them how much work needs to be done. We set ourselves some objectives which included becoming brave, smart and fast on the start line and improving abilities by seeing the best examples from the top level athletes. Our immediate aim was to complete all the races and the guys did pretty well.” Windsurfing is one of the sports that Oman Sail is keen to promote as part of its mission to use sport in raising the profile of Oman as a high end tourist and investment destination.
Although only in existence for five years, it has taught thousands of Omani children to sail and already has produced a number of professional sailors able to compete in elite sailing competitions throughout the sport. Talking of Oman as a sailing destination with perfect wind and weather conditions came as second nature at Garda Eurolymp 2013 where competitors were keen to learn how similar those conditions were to Rio de Janeiro where the next Games will be held in 2016.
“It was an opportunity to invite the other athletes to come to Oman during the winter for training. The conditions in Oman are similar to Rio so the training conditions are ideal and they were all interested to come and see for themselves,” said Ezer. “This event in Garda was a big sign that qualifying for the Olympics will not be easy. It will be very difficult but part of my job is to make the guys believe that they can qualify and I really believe they can.”
In a field of participants at Garda Eurolymp 2013, Oman team came 22nd, 23rd and 24th which, Ezer said, was very satisfactory in such windy conditions. “If we’d had light winds we could have climbed up to 15th place. But we have so much data in our hand, we have changed and set our year plan on this strategy to work towards our targets. To able to become a good windsurfer, time and patience are both crucial.”
An ambitious programme of training and competition will edge Oman Sail closer to their goals with training camps arranged during June, July and August as preparation for the Asian Championships in Korea in September. In October and November, the national windsurfing team will be supporting the Oman Sail Youth Windsurfing Project which they will start as soon as the championships are completed. Then a further two weeks of training in December in Cadiz will lead into the 2013 Spanish Championships.