Sports 2013 round-up


Outstanding achievement: Issa Al Hasani, centre being honoured by National Bank of Oman officials after he won the Grand Prix Bodybuilding Championships. Photo - Supplied

Thirteen is considered an unlucky number, a belief that is even more prevalent in the superstitious world of sports. Though it is debatable whether the same belief is held in this part of the world, one thing is certain that 2013, with that dreaded double digit, has so far been a very mixed year for Omani sports.

Without doubt, as bemoaned by an influential official, it has been a very 'unlucky' season for the Sultanate's soccer, especially the national team who to start with made an ignominious first round exit from the 21st Gulf Cup in Bahrain and then had their World Cup dream shattered in the latter part of the year.

But fortunately, so to say, that at least led the soccer crazy nation to turn their attention to other sports, and appreciate and applaud the achievements of the individual athletes and teams other than the Sultanate's national game.

In an year when everyone involved the sports were encouraged by a Royal decree awarding OMR 1 million to each sports club, it's not just the on-field achievements of the sportspersons but also the accomplishments of sports administrators and their organisational abilities, leading to the country being awarded the right host to a number of international events, which captured the imagination of the entire nation.

At the beginning for the year, to be precise in February, the Minister of Sports Affairs hosted, with great success, the first-ever Oman Sports Exhibition and Conference with the primary aim of projecting the country as a sporting destination.

That was preceded by two ITF Under-18 Tournaments organised by the Oman Tennis Association (OTA) and followed by the annual ritual - the Tour of Oman - that firmly put the Sultanate on the world cycling map while promoting the country as the most desirable tourist destination.

And throughout the year there was good news coming out of the playing fields and also from the racing tracks, off the beach and the seas as the Omani athletes went on to excel in athletics, tennis, beach events, sailing and motorsports.
 
Sailing sensations
 

To begin with sailing, the tireless efforts of professionally run Oman Sail and the Oman Sailing Committee are slowly but steadily paying off as they have a number of achievements to boast about, starting with young Hussain Al Jabri's championship winning performance in the Laser Standard class at the Sail the Gulf Regatta in Qatar.

Later Oman, hosting the GCC Sailing Championships, claimed gold in Optimist and Hobie 16 class and silver in Laser Standard.

Meanwhile, The Wave Muscat are on the verge of retaining the world Extreme Sailing Series title after having dominated the seven of the eight Acts starting with the first one held in Muscat.

Raya Al Habsi became the first Omani woman to take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race when she made her historic debut as part of the elite team on board the national flagship Oman Air-Musandam in the Artemis Challenge in Cowes.

Raya went on to become the first Arab to be nominated for the prestigious ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year Award with the ASAF gala hosted by Oman.

Earlier, Oman Sail also hosted the Oman's own  Sailor of the Years Awards with Hussain Al Jabri and Intisar Al Toubi deservedly winning the Outstanding Male and Female Sailors awards.
 
Relentless Fatma

Tennis star Fatma Al Nabhani is yet to get the recognition and support she deserves. But there is no stopping her on the courts as she continues to wage a lone battle winning laurels for the country.

The Omani lass clinched many a titles on the regional and international tournaments, the latest being a doubles crown in the $20,000 ITF Pro Circuit Tournament in Nigerian capital of Lagos.

She helped Oman win two medals, including a singles gold and a team doubles bronze with Sarah Al Balushi, in the Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia.
 
Games glory
Continuing with Islamic Solidarity Games, the Omani athletes and beach volleyballers bagged a number of medals including gold.
 
In fact, on the beach the Sultanate spikers shone bright winning gold and bronze respectively, the champions being Oman B team of Hassan Al Balushi and Badr Al Subhi and Oman A team of Haitham Al Shuraiqi and Ahmed Al Hosni also finishing on the podium.

On the track, Barakat Al Harthy, Bader Al Jabri, Abdullah Al Sooli and Mohammed Al Saadi bagged gold in 4x100m relay while Omani women team of Shnoona Al Habsi, Buthaina Al Yaqoobi, Mazoon Al Alawi and Hiba Al Asmi tasted double success bagging bonze in both 4x100m and 4x400m Barakat also bagged silver in the 100m.

Rising star Raghad Nabil Ghazi Al Zubaidi won bronze medal in the discus.

And soon after the Games, Raghad also went on to win another bronze when Omanis delegation returned home with seven medals of different colours from West Asian Junior Athletcs Championships in Jordanian capital of Amman.
 
Rise of golf

Thanks to setting up of green golf courses, with ultra modern facilities, has witnessed the rise of golf profile in the country, which the authorities are trying to promote as a true golfing destination.

The country already hosted an European Tour event for the first time in the form of NBO Golf Classic at Almouj and Ghala Valley Golf Club playing host a MENA Tour round. And the growing interest is evident from the Omani juniors winning second place at the 17th GCC Golf Championships.
 
Oman also hosted 23rd GCC Swimming and Diving Championships and won 41 medals to finish third overall.
 
Shifting tracks

There was also a lot happening in the motorsport with Oman's only circuit race Ahmad Al Harthy shifting to endurance racing to take part in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship and Blancpain Endurance Series with great success.

Back home rally legend Hamed Al Wahaibi is trying to give something back to the sport and society by launching Oman Youth Rally Cup aimed at producing the future rally champions and it is right to say that he has already on the right track to achieve his goals.

Back on the back, the national beach handball team qualified for the World Beach Handball Championship with a silver-winning performance in the Asian championship in Hong Kong.

Another remarkable achievement, which went almost unnoticed, was gold-winning performance by
muscleman Issa Al Hassani at the Grand Prix Body Building Championship in Budapest.

The Sultanate also celebrated a rare achievement on the basketball court, when Oman boys outplayed Qatar to clinch third place at the GCC Under-15 Basketball Championship in Bahrain.

On the administrative front, Oman officially joined the Olympic movement by holding the first ever democratic elections to the Oman Olympic Committee when Khalid Al Zubair emerged the winner in the three-way contest for the chairmanship.

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