Sunday, November 09, 2008

Dubai World Chairman leads UAE team to glory in Malaysia

Chairman Dubai World, His Excellency Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, a former Asian Games Equestrian medallist, once again proved his riding skills at the 12th FEI World Endurance Championships held at the Terengganu International Endurance Park in Malaysia on Saturday (Nov.8). Mr. Bin Sulayem won the bronze in the individual event, adding to the glory of the UAE, which won the team gold in style.

Mr. Bin Sulayem, riding Tazoul El Parry, covered the 160-kilometre distance in 9 hours, 19 minutes and 31 seconds behind Spain’s Maria Alvarez Ponton and Argentina’s Augustine Vita.

This is the latest of the many triumphs Mr. Bin Sulayem has achieved at the national and international levels. He had bagged the bronze medal at the Doha Asian Games in 2006.

Team UAE Crowned Endurance Champions

Team UAE stayed the course to be crowned champions for the first time in the World Endurance Championship, capping their overall domination of the 12th edition of this competition when Sultan Bin Sulayem finished in third place overall.
Spain’s Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton claimed the individual title with a commanding performance which saw her lead from start to finish except in the second of the seven loops.
But her near flawless performance was overshadowed by the clinical efficiency of Team UAE who executed with almost clockwork precision what seemed a perfectly scripted plan to capture a title which has eluded them since the inception of this competition.
Spurred on by Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, the four-member UAE team comprising Shaikh Majed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Mohammed Ahmad Al Subose, Mubarak Khalifa bin Shafya and Abdulla Thani bin Huzaim made it a ‘no-horse’ race at the end with a high level of consistency throughout the gruelling 160km ride.
Such was their stranglehold on the championship held in the night for the first time, that Qatar finished with only two riders to take second place in the team event while the early challenge of countries like Spain, France and Argentina fizzled out like the rain which lashed Terengganu International Endurance Park during the night.
The UAE riders stood tall while other contenders fell by the wayside for various reasons with some even losing their way on these treacherous trails which were battered by a thunderstorm during the second stage on Friday.
There was consternation for the organisers as the lightning damaged some computers causing a slight delay in proceedings.
But the UAE riders were unfazed by these minor distractions as they were determined to bask in glory and write a new chapter in the history of endurance riding. The result seemed a foregone conclusion as far as the team title was concerned when the penultimate stage commenced at the crack of dawn as if ushering in a new era.
Shaikh Hamdan dedicated this history accomplishment to His Highness the President Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
“I was confident before the race that we would win because we had a good team. We had experience of winning many titles in Europe. I’m happy that I took part only in the individual event because the team would have lost as my horse went lame,” said Shaikh Hamdan.
“The advise I received from His Highness Shaikh Mohammed was also crucial in our victory,” he added.
“It was fun winning,” quipped the UAE team captain Shaikh Hamdan who relaxed only after the mission was accomplished as he brilliantly marshalled all the resources at his disposal to ensure there were no hiccups this time. Bahrain’s Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who finished ninth overall, warmly congratulated Shaikh Hamdan on their victory.
“We did not wait for luck to come to us. We grabbed the chance to create history. It was a fine team effort,” added Shaikh Hamdan who himself made a crucial tactical decision of opting out of the team in pursuit of individual honours after his nominated mount Jazyk failed the veterinary test.
However, he showed his determination to lead from the front taking second place in the opening phase on Kaysand Farrazah, a 12-year-old Arabian gelding. He dropped to fifth at the end of the third loop although maintaining an average pace of above 17kph and was unfortunate to be eliminated when Farrazah was detected with lameness when he was presented for re-examination before the start of the fourth phase.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he focussed his full attention to directing team operations as a crew member and planning strategy which finally brought them that elusive team title.
Shaikh Majed riding Spenda Crest Kamouflage, a 11-year-old Arabian chestnut gelding, was also among the front runners in the overall individual title. He maintained an average speed of 17kph and made a significant contribution for the team’s victory.
“It was the best performance of my career,” said Shaikh Majed who won the Arabian endurance championship in Cairo last November.
“The weather was nice with the rain softening the trails and making it good for the horses. I enjoyed every moment of it,” he said.
Al Subose riding Koum Des Jamets, a 10-year-old Arabian chestnut gelding, bin Shafya astride Zakah Zahara, a 12-year-old Arabian gelding, and bin Huzaim aboard Castlebar Kadeen, 11-year-old Arabian mare, rode in tandem to ensure an emphatic victory for UAE.
Bin Sulayem riding Tazoul El Parry, a 11-year-old Arabian gelding covered himself in glory after taking third position with a consistent performance. He also maintained a healthy average speed of over 17kph to finish just 15 minutes behind Agustin Vita of Argentina on Baraka Ibn Al Tamah, a 10-year-old Arabian chestnut gelding.
Spain’s Maria became the 10th woman to claim the individual title at the world championship aboard Nobby, a 13-year-old Arabian gelding. She could not hide her delight at the finish with Shaikh Hamdan being one of the first to congratulate her. “It’s unbelievable. The horse is the winner and it was an amazing victory,” she said after her magnificent triumph.
Later, according to WAM, the King of Malaysia, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni Al Marhum Sultan Mahmud, called Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid the ‘godfather of world endurance horse racing’. His words were translated into an award and it was received by Shaikh Hamdan on behalf of his father from Sultan Mohammed, the brother of the Malaysian king, during a short but colourful ceremony.

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