Omar Al Marzooqi from the UAE is optimistic about Paris prospects following his Asian Games medal triumph.


Omar Al Marzooqi from the UAE is optimistic about Paris prospects following his Asian Games medal triumph.

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Omar Al Marzooqi is accustomed to being the youngest competitor in the arena. Back in 2018, at the age of 15, he clinched the silver medal in individual showjumping at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires. This made him not only the youngest participant in the event but also the first Emirati to stand on the podium at a Youth Olympic Games.

Fast forward to last week in Hangzhou, where the now 20-year-old Al Marzooqi played a pivotal role in securing a team bronze for the UAE at the Asian Games. Additionally, he claimed a silver medal in the individual competition, besting his compatriot Abdullah Al Marri, who took home the bronze.

Both Al Marzooqi and Al Marri were integral members of the Emirati showjumping team that accomplished the historic feat of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics earlier this year. While the UAE had previously sent riders for individual showjumping events, Paris 2024 will mark the first time the nation will field a complete team.

“The medal in Hangzhou wasn’t easy; it was a challenging competition, and the Paris Olympics will be, I think, generally tougher. But we’ll try our best,” Al Marzooqi conveyed to The National. He added, “It’s a new level for us, especially since the Olympics is something we’ve never experienced before. I’ll strive to give my best performance, aiming for a medal, of course. But more importantly, I want to leave the Olympics with a lasting impression of Omar Al Marzooqi, as well as the entire UAE riding team.”

While equestrianism is deeply rooted in UAE heritage, showjumping hasn’t always commanded the same attention as racing or endurance events. However, this narrative has been evolving in recent years.

Al Marzooqi acknowledges the significant role played by Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza Al Nahyan, stating, “Ten years ago, she initiated the Al Shiraa stables program with a focus on nurturing young riders, particularly from the local community. She took a monumental step in advancing the sport of showjumping, and it’s made a world of difference.

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We’re witnessing the tangible outcomes now—the talent, the dedication of UAE riders, all striving to achieve remarkable feats in the sport. It’s truly heartening to see the surge in support for the sport, especially with the emergence of new generations,” remarked Al Marzooqi.

Currently pursuing dual bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and psychology at Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, Al Marzooqi acknowledges that his Youth Olympics medal provided an early career boost. However, he now views himself as a vastly more seasoned rider, armed with a wealth of experience. “I’ve learned to navigate almost any situation and handle the pressure effectively,” he affirmed. “The Asian Games in China posed a significant challenge because there were five Emirati riders vying for three medals, which meant two of us would miss out. It was a real test.”

The showjumping team’s remarkable haul of three medals—two individual and one team—marked a historic moment for the UAE at the Asian Games. With a total of 20 medals (five gold, five silver, 10 bronze) secured in Hangzhou, this event stands as the most successful Asian Games in the UAE’s history. This achievement represents an impressive seven-medal increase from their performance in Jakarta 2018, propelling the UAE from 20th to 16th place in the overall medals tally.

“This clearly demonstrates the unwavering support from our leaders for every sport,” emphasized Al Marzooqi. “Let’s talk about equestrian—it’s the sport of Arabs, one could say. The Arabs laid the foundation for this sport, so we must defend it and consistently present the best image of our community.”

The Asian Games also marked a significant milestone for women’s sports in the Emirates, with six of the 20 medals won by female athletes. Golds were clinched by Shamma Al Kalbani and Asma Al Hosani in jiu-jitsu, while Bishrelt Khorloodoi in judo and Balqees Abdulla in jiu-jitsu secured silver medals. Additionally, Hawraa Al Ajmi and Shamsa Al Ameri earned bronze in karate and jiu-jitsu, respectively.

In the closing ceremony, cyclist Safiya Al Sayegh proudly carried the UAE flag, while in the opening ceremony, shooter Ghaya Al Shuhail shared the flag-bearing honor with cyclist Ahmed Al Mansoori. Al Mansoori’s bronze in the omnium marked a historic moment as the first time an Arab athlete medaled in track cycling at an Asian Games.

While disciplines like jiu-jitsu and karate aren’t part of the Olympic program, Hangzhou provided a substantial boost for the UAE’s preparations for Paris 2024. The nation’s judokas and showjumpers stand a strong chance of gracing the podium.

As a 20-year-old, the prospect of participating in the Olympics is incredibly exciting. Insha’Allah, it won’t be a one-time occurrence; I hope to qualify for several more,” expressed Al Marzooqi with optimism.


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