The region’s top young athletes competed in an eventful night of track and field events, as Ultimate Athletics made its way to the New York University (NYU), Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. The evening showcased the best of upcoming athletes in the UAE, with both junior and senior competition.
Celina Farrell, a 12-year-old from American International School Abu Dhabi, trains in the evening at the NYU Abu Dhabi and enjoyed great success on the track. “I enjoy running, but my favourite event is actually the high jump, I feel like flying and it doesn’t take as much energy to jump than it does to run”, she told Sport 360. Despite favouring the field event, Farrell, whose Olympic hero is Usain Bolt, won each of her three races – the 80 metres, 150 metres and 300 metres.
Teacher-turned-coach Lisa Campbell, who began Ultimate Athletics in 2015, organised the evening and said demand has never been greater for track and field in the UAE. “I stopped teaching to focus full-time on coaching athletics and now we’ve grown to over 600 members in three years”, she commented. In fact, demand has grown so much Campbell now employs three full-time coaches and fifteen part-time coaches to help her out, “it’s a joint effort, there’s no ‘I’ in team”, she added.
PE teacher Kimbely Baptiste, 25, dominated the senior 100 and 200 metre events while barely breaking a sweat. She took gold in the mixed 100 metres with a time of 11.91 seconds and clocked a cool 24.99 seconds in the 200m. Speaking before the 200 metre race she said, “The aim is just to keep getting faster and see where it takes me. I used to train in the UK before moving to the UAE and now I’m out here training myself which is going really well. I’m going back to the UK after the academic year because here I’m running against under 17 men who give me good competition”. Also in competition was Noaman Elassaoui, running out of Al Wasl Club, who won the 800 metres with an impressive time of 1:51:31 and Krtajna Prem, the Under 17 triple jump winner.
Ultimate Athletics educates young athletics with theory workshops with sports science-qualified coaches, nutritionists and physiotherapists.
Northern Irish athlete Leon Reid is an Ultimate Athletics ambassador, recently got first-hand experience of just how intense the competition is during an event – and was left impressed. “It’s crazy competitive here, there’s cameras on the finish line and the kids are dipping for the finishes. The parents are really encouraging of the kids and if they want to build champions then they’re certainly going the right way about it.”
Photography by Melissa Lear to view more of this photographer’s work visit www.melissalear.com
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