Emirati fencing champion hopes to represent UAE at the Olympics some day

It is our duty to be the best that we can be, says the 25-year-old athlete



by

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Tue 2 Aug 2022, 4:39 PM

UAE fencing champion Khalifa Al Zarooni is currently training relentlessly with the aim to represent the UAE in high-level competitions such as the Olympics.

The 25-year-old has already represented his country on local and global stages, making a name for himself with every tournament.

As a budding young athlete, Al Zarooni’s high school coach noticed his talent and encouraged him to explore the competitive sport of fencing beyond the gymnasium.

Guided by his coach, he dedicated himself to the sport, where he found a special sense of camaraderie among his teammates within the UAE Federation.

“The school coach encouraged me towards fencing back in 2012, given my good height and potential,” Al Zarooni told Khaleej Times on Tuesday. “At first, I was reluctant to pursue the sport, but the coach pushed me to train until I mastered it.”

With support from his family, especially his mother and siblings, the Emirati has been able to win titles within the Gulf region and in Asian competitions — such as when he and his teammates won gold at the Gulf Regionals in Bahrain in 2017, knocking out seasoned competitors and earning the UAE its very first win.

Fencers under the age of 20 seldom go beyond the primaries, let alone finish with a medal, making this a milestone achievement for fencers everywhere.

Despite his numerous wins and successes, the Emirati considered retiring due to the difficulties he faced without a sponsor. “There were many challenges in the sport, especially regarding finances. I used to pay for most of my facilitation including training, travels and others, which was costly,” he said.

The game changed for Al Zarooni when he won sponsorship by Mubadala Excellence Programme. The initiative, which commenced in August last year, supports UAE-based talents in pursuing their dreams and finances their sporting activities, including training, and travel.

Through it, the athlete found a support system to continue excelling and was able to join international training camps to practice alongside the French and Hungarian national teams. This top-level training boosted the Emirati’s confidence and enhanced his natural skill and talent. He also gained a better understanding of international fencing standards.

“Getting the sponsorship was like a dream come true for me. The day I signed the contract with Mubadala Excellence Programme is among the most important days in my life as it changed everything in my sports career,” Al Zarooni said. He highlighted how he even got to compete against top fencers — like his role model French Olympian fencer Yannick Borel, whom he only watched on TV till a few years ago.

“I am now one of them and can even beat them. I will continue doing my best to make the UAE proud,” he said.

“It would give me great pride and the highest honour to represent my country at the Olympics," he continued. "Sports are an example of our nation’s advancements and progress on all levels. Our leadership strives to give us the means to reach our dreams, and it is also our duty as Emiratis to be the best that we can be.”

Al Zarooni is an airspace engineer and graduated from the Higher Colleges of Technology - Abu Dhabi Men’s Campus in 2021. He has 16 siblings: 9 brothers and 7 sisters.

ismail@khaleejtimes.com

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