Athletes from nine schools across UAE impressed at this year’s U13 edition of The World School Games in Dubai. BSAK and Raha made the short trip from Abu Dhabi, whereas the host city was represented by Dubai International Academy, JESS Arabian Ranches, GEMS First Point School, GEMS Metropole School, GEMS Modern Academy GEMS Wellington International School and German International School.
Day one was athletics and there was plenty to shout about for the local schools. GEMS Modern Academy’s Jonathan Shaji stamped himself into the WSG history books, with two records on the same morning. First he ran a swift 1:33.71 in the 600m shaving 11 seconds off the previous record holder, before running 3:41.34 in the 1200m, bringing home another World School Games record and gold medal. But there was one more medal to come Jonathan’s way when his teammates tore across the line in the boys’ relay for a first place finish, again in record breaking time. It also earned him the title of boys’ athletics MVP.
DIA’s Nina Waddick was the girls high jump champion and boys counterpart Owen Sakapaji (BSAK) notched a record by leaping an incredible 1.65m. Another big achievement in the field events saw, GEMS Metropole’s Mazen Hassan threw 11.64m in the boys’ shot put to be honoured with a World School Games record.
Tuesday saw the short journey across Dubai Sports Village, to the state of the art football centre. An excellent day overall for the UAE schools was highlighted by two standout teams. In the boys section, despite finishing second in their group to compatriots BSAK, GEMS Metropole produced a stunning run of results to reach the final. They lost out to Greensprings of Nigeria in a thrilling finalé.
On the girls side, it was Raha of Abu Dhabi that impressed. The Raptors won their group and subsequently saw off Nigerians Temple School and CIS Lagos in the knockout stages. Their run finally came to an end against ACS Cobham of London in the final, who edged them out with the narrowest of victories. However, there was top class sportsmanship on show as both teams embraced each other on the final whistle.
Unfortunately, just a matter of hours after the success on the football pitch, the UAE schools participating were hit with disappointment. News had broken earlier that morning about cases of coronavirus in Abu Dhabi, which had led to cancellation of the high-profile UAE Cycle Tour amongst other events. As a result, various educational authorities across the country had opted to put precautionary measures in place, as a safety measure to guard against the risk of the virus spreading. The outcome was that schools were advised not to participate in competitions, festivals and activities outwith their school.
An incredibly harsh twist of fate for the UAE based schools, who had trained for months for these three days of sporting activity on the world stage. However, of course the safety of young people comes first and the various directives issued were made with the best interests of the athletes in mind.
The event went ahead as scheduled, with predominantly travelling schools competing. As a result, we can’t shout about the end of event leaderboard in the way we had hoped. However, we did see more than enough in the two days of action to make it very clear that there is a bright future in store for UAE school sport. We know each and every young athlete involved will be eager to return to the sporting arena as soon as possible, and we look forward to seeing them pick up from where they left off.