Among the more rare and poignant moments during the Beijing Olympic Games, one or two definitely stand out. One of these is the resolve of American Michael Phelps in the swimming pool, and the other is adoration for Usain Bolt’s sheer brilliance on the track.

Phelps and Bolt were the heroes this time; one with his amazing tally of eight gold medals, and the second with his three golds - the only athlete since Carl Lewis to make a clean sweep of the sprint events. However, against this backdrop of great feats, some countries were falling short of fulfilling their potential or expectations. The UAE was among these countries. Embarking on an Olympic Games with an eight-member contingent, the UAE returned without any medals.

The athletes gave it their best with Athens gold medalist Sheikh Ahmed Mohammad Bin Hasher Al Maktoum leading the way. Sheikh Ahmed chose the trap competition. He lurked among the contenders, but the second and final day of trap shooting saw the UAE shooter slip down into 30th place. Immediately after that, Sheikh Ahmed called in to announce his retirement from the sport of shooting.

Downhearted to see his beloved sport being mismanaged by authorities, Sheikh Ahmed then attended the double trap final. He struggled to find the same form that saw him clinch gold in Athens four years ago; he fought to finish in seventh. The UAE’s second shooter did not fare too well as Sheikh Saeed, the 32-year-old silver medalist at the Doha Asian Games in 2006, was pushed down into 22nd place after two days of qualifying in the skeet.

Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum had had a near perfect preparation for the Olympics. Despite this, she insisted that she would never totally be prepared for such a huge occasion. When she was drawn to fight against world champion and ultimate gold medal winner Hwang Kyung-seon of South Korea in the 67kg category, Sheikha Maitha’s lack of world-class competition experience showed as she bowed out of the competition. “We were there for the experience,” Sheikha Maitha insisted. Her next goal is to make it to the 2012 London Olympics.

Shaikha Latifa Bint Ahmed Al Maktoum competed in Hong Kong in the individual show jumping competition. After the first day, Shaikha Latifa had drawn 11 penalty points with her horse Kalaska De Semilly. By the end of the second day, she had slipped to 54th place overall after picking up a total of 26 penalty points.

The UAE’s run for medals had begun with swimmer Obaid Al Jasmi, who had qualified for the 100 metres freestyle. Prior to his departure, the 26 year old had promised to re-write the UAE national record. Al Jasmi lived up to his promise with a new UAE record of 53.29 seconds. “I had promised to set a new UAE national record and I achieved my goal. These swimmers have been in training for the past four years at least, whereas I trained for less than two months,” he commented.

Next up was judoka Saeed Al Qubaisi. The 18-year-old came up against some tough opposition and he lasted just one round against South Africa’s Marlon August in the preliminary round of the under-73kg class. Al Qubaisi, who started training from the time he turned 12, could not match the South African’s superior match experience as he was thrown by his opponent to lose by an ippon (a full point).

The young Omar Al Salfa did his best in the 200 metre sprint heats, to end in seventh with a time of 21 seconds flat. However, the good thing about the youngster is that he has a long career ahead of him should he train well and gather more experience.

Sailor Adil Khalid also had to face a number of competitive sportsmen in the Laser sailing. The best Adil Khalid could achieve was a credible 11th place in one of the eight heats.

At the end of another Olympics, the UAE had to return empty-handed with no medals to boast about. However, the athletes are all the more wiser with added resolve and valuable experience to go on and do better when London stages the Games in 2012.

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