Abu Dhabi-born World Championship silver medallist Azza Besbes of Tunisia is using the Nad Al Sheba (NAS) Sports Tournament as a stepping stone towards achieving her Olympic dream at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Born in a sports family in Abu Dhabi, Besbes’s father Ali is a former basketball player, while her mum Hayet Bin Ghazi is a former foil fencer who went on to become an international referee. Her parents settled in Abu Dhabi until 1995 during which time her three older sisters Reem, Hela and Sarah and youngest brother Aziz were all born.
Besbes, now 27, has so far participated in three Olympic Games. She was placed seventh on debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, slipped down by two spots into ninth at the London Games in 2012 and finally posted a career-best fifth place at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the women’s sabre discipline.
A five-time African champion, Besbes is now looking for that elusive Olympic medal when the next Games are held in Tokyo in two years’ time.
“I get this feeling that 2020 is going to be my Games. Since being a small child growing up in Abu Dhabi to spending my time training all alone in France I have always dreamt about having an Olympic medal around my neck. I feel this dream can come true in Tokyo,” Besbes told Gulf News after easing into the final of the women’s international sabre competition at the Sixth Nad Al Sheba (NAS) Sports Tournament, late on Sunday.
“Technically, this is the off-season for us. So to have a competition in a friendly place like the UAE can only help me stay focused on the ultimate goal,” she added.
Currently ranked ninth in the world, Besbes won silver at the 2017 World Championships in Leipzig. “For the time-being this is the highlight of my career. But for any sportsperson there is nothing like an Olympic medal around the neck. Very soon this can be a reality for me too,” Besbes smiled.
In her semi-final at the Shabab Al Ahli Club’s indoor hall, Besbes got the better of fellow Tunisian Ameera Bin Chaaban 15-12. She will now meet teenager Marleen Buitenhuis from Holland — a 15-6 winner against Hamad Shoug in the semi-finals — in the final to be played at the Nas Sports Complex on Wednesday.
Buitenhuis, a Cadet fencer all her life, was looking confidently ahead to the final duel against the fancied Besbes. “I shall stick to my game plan. There is nothing that cannot be achieved while staying concentrated and focused. I am very motivated as it will be a new experience for me to duel against a world champion,” Buitenhuis related.
Meanwhile in the volleyball competition, defending champions Surprise sailed into the semi-finals for a meeting with F3, while F3 ‘A’ will meet Spinneys in the second match. Both semi-finals will be played on Tuesday. In Sunday’s action, Surprise tamed Raptor 3-0 (28-26, 27-25, 25-23), while F3 got the better of Spinneys 3-2 (25-23, 20-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-4) with both teams advancing to the last four of the competition.
In the padel competition, Padel Pro ‘A’ secured an easy 2-0 win against Mondia ‘W’, while Emilio Misas and Carlos Luna got the better of Toni Salord and Pyotor Bakass 6-0, 6-1 and Saeed Al Merri and Abdullah Al Ahli defeated Sachin Talwar and Dean MacFarlane 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 in the men’s open.
Fencing: (Women’s sabre international final) Azza Besbes bt Ameera Bin Chaaban 15-12; Marleen Buitenhuis bt Hamad Shoug 15-6. (Men’s foil Emirati) Hamad Al Jallaf bt Khalifa Al Zarouni 15-11; Abdul Rahman Haffour bt Nahyan Al Azazi 15-8.
Volleyball: Surprise bt Raptor 3-0 (28-26, 27-25, 25-23); F3 bt Spinneys 3-2 (25-23, 20-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-4).
Padel: (Teams) Padel Pro ‘A’ bt Mondia ‘W’ 2-0 (6-0, 6-1 and 6-0, 6-0); (Men’s open) Emilio Misas/Carlos Luna bt Toni Salord/Pyotor Bakass 6-0, 6-1; Saeed Al Merri/Abdullah Al Ahli bt Sachin Talwar/Dean MacFarlane 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.
By Alaric Gomes
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