North African Olympic gold medal-winning long and middle-distance runners Mohammad Gammoudi and Hicham Al Guerrouj want to see more from the next generation of Arab athletes.
Both Tunisia’s Gammoudi, 79 — who won 5,000-metre gold at Mexico 1968 — and Morocco’s Al Guerrouj, 43 — who won both 1,500-metre and 5,000-metre gold at Athens 2004 — were decorated by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, during the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Awards ceremony at Dubai World Trade Centre on Tuesday.
The pair agreed the awards would help inspire the next generation of Arab athletes but said more needed to be done in Arab sport in general.
Twenty-two Arab countries across the Middle East and North Africa collected an unprecedented 16 medals at Rio 2016, although two from Kuwait don’t count because the country was suspended due to government interference and their athletes entered as independents.
That tally was up from 12 medals won by Arab athletes at London 2012 but it’s still a low number when you consider the population of the Arab world is almost 370 million.
“In terms of performance and position we can do more,” said Al Guerrouj. “We have a young population, more than 70 per cent of the 300 million plus people in the Arab world are youth. We have strong facilities and good resources now, and if we change the way we develop sport and how we create more opportunity for our youth we can get better performances in the next Olympics.”
Gammoudi agreed: “There’s been a big transformation and everything has changed since my time, not only in sport, but I would like to see more evolution.
“When I won the Olympic gold there was no encouragement or structure but now there is, so we want to see more medals from Arab countries.”
Both agreed unique initiatives such as the Mohammad Bin Rashid Creative Sports Awards would help celebrate Arab sport, unite Arab countries and push the agenda for improvement.
“This award means a lot for me and future generations,” added Gammoudi. “And when I go back to Tunisia and tell them of my experiences and how I was honoured it will have a good influence on the next generation.
“There are many examples of Arab athletes doing well after me like double Olympic gold medallist Hicham Al Guerrouj, but there should be focus to do better in the future.”
Al Guerrouj said: “I will add this award to all the trophies and medals I got from my career and it will be invested to develop sport in my home country of Morocco.
“It’s very important to have these awards recognising Arab athletes, it’s an investment in what we do to develop sport and this will give us and our youth more support.”
Mohammad Bin Rashid Creative Sports Awards winners
UAE Sports Personality: Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (Minister of Tolerance) (UAE)
Arab Sports Personality: Princess Rima Bint Bandar Bin Sultan Al Saud (KSA)
UAE Outstanding Athlete: Omar Abdul Rahman (football)
UAE Referee: Ebrahim Yousuf Al Mansouri (beach soccer)
UAE Coach: Saeed Bin Surour (horse racing)
UAE Organisation: UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation
Arab Outstanding Athlete: Nour Atef Al Sherbini (EGY — squash)
Arab Administrator: Ebrahim Mohammad Al Gannas (KSA)
Arab Referee: Tarek Bin Mohammad Souei (TUN)
Arab Coach: Faris Ebrahim Al Assaf (JOR)
Arab Team: Iraqi Youth Football Team Under-16
International Organisation (For Association of Summer Olympic International Federations): Union Cycliste International (UCI)
International Organisation (For IOC-Recognised International Sports Federations): International Cricket Council (ICC)
Arab Emerging Athlete: Mohammad Mustafa Al Sowaiq (KSA — taekwondo)
Distinguished Athlete: Farida Hisham Osman (EGY — swimming)
Difficult Challenges (People of Determination Category):
Abdel Latif Baka (ALG — athletics)
Fouad Baka (ALG — athletics)
Olympic Creative Sports:
Mohammad Gammoudi (TUN — athletics)
Hicham Al Guerrouj (MOR — athletics)
UAE Emerging Athletes:
Hussain Yousuf Anwar (football)
Ammar Mohammad Al Sedrani (chess)
Maitha Abdullah Hassan (judo)
Wadima Saeed Abdullah (jiu jitsu)
Omar Mohammad Alwan (jiu jitsu)
Abdullah Guhloom Al Maazimi (taekwondo)
By Ashley Hammond