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Expat athletes embrace new chance to realise their dreams and represent the UAE

Youngsters hail the announcement for expats to join UAE clubs that will potentially see them represent the nation

Denzil Pinto 2018/05/12

Expatriate athletes have welcomed the announcement that they now have an opportunity to represent the UAE in international competitions in the future.

Last month, the General Sports Authority revealed that expats born and living in the Emirates will, as of September, be eligible to join UAE sports clubs following a Presidential decree in November.

Athletics is one of the disciplines that has been identified and young athletes from Ultimate Athletics believe it’s a great step for the UAE.

“For me, it’s really good news,” said 800-metre runner Conor O’Donovan, who hails from Ireland and joined Al Wasl recently. “Since I’m born in the UAE if I can start running for the country where I live, I would. It would be a great honour for me.

“Running for a country would be huge achievement for me or even for anyone. It would be huge. If I get picked it would be incredible.”

Anselma Ellingwood, 15, has only been in the Emirates for less than a year. But with stern competition in her homeland in the United States, the decision has given her hope she can represent her adopted country.

“It’s a really good idea,” said Ellingwood, who lived in China before. “I think the UAE has great facilities and there’s a real community of fitness over here which involves a lot of expats.

“I think if expats constantly improve, they can build a strong team. It’s great for people like me who cannot qualify for the US nationals because it’s quite competitive to participate in events. It’s given me hope that I can still represent the UAE.”

Megan Dingle, who ran the 3,000m in Thursday’s Race Night, has aspirations of representing the Great Britain but believes the announcement is great news.

She said: “It would be good to look into it. It hasn’t been opened for expats for a long time.

“I think Great Britain would be my first option, I went back and competed in the Nationals three weeks ago and my main aim would be to represent UK.

“But there are so many great athletes especially in expats and it would be great for them to compete in an international competition.”

Lisa Campbell, founder of Ultimate Athletics, revealed the positive news was something she had been working towards for more than a decade.

“It’s been my dream. Since I came to Dubai 12 years ago, this is something I’ve been working towards,” she said. “I’ve been in touch with the UAE Athletics Federation and Al Wasl club, so that as soon as we were given the go ahead, we can send people across.

“We have six people competing in President’s Cup and hopefully it will give them a chance to shine with the local athletes. Hopefully, whoever impresses can represent the local clubs and hopefully for the UAE.

“A lot of people are excited. A lot of them have been born here so it’s home for them.

“To be given the opportunity for the UAE is motivational for them and something they can strive for.”

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Anselma Ellingwood Conor O’Donovan lisa campbell Ultimate Athletics