Lamia Tariq Malallah (centre) is looking towards a federation being formed soon for her sport.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
Her father was an accomplished footballer and her mother an equestrian rider. So it was natural for Lamia to inherit a love for sport.
And naturally it flowed. After taking to rhythmic gymnastics at the tender age of five, Lamia never looked back and went on to win six international gold medals besides dominating local championships.
Her first gold medal came at the age of six when she won the inaugural Dubai International Junior Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships held at the Al Habtoor Indoor Complex in 2017. Last year, she won a gold medal at the International Rhythmic Gymnastics Youth Cup in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Lamia, who won the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award in local category in Creative Sport in 2019, has been training for nearly four years and has won many international competitions.
Lamia also won gold medals at the 2017 Open GR Azur International in Nice, France, and at the 2018 Armonia Cup in Thessaloniki, Greece.
She followed this up with a silver medal at the 2017 Winter Cup in Leverkusen, Germany and clinched a bronze at the prestigious Novogorsk Winter Cup in Moscow at the end of 2018.
But soon the Dubai girl may not be in a position to even compete at accredited and recognised international competitions, if appropriate measures are not initiated by sports authorities in the UAE.
“As Dubai moves into 2020 with a mission to make Dubai a global hub for sports, the Olympic sport of Rhythmic Gymnastics needs more recognition and a federation in the UAE,’ says her father Tariq Ali Abdullah Malallah, a former Al Ahli footballer.
Lamia is looking towards a federation being formed soon for her sport. She receives a lot of support and encouragement through her worldwide followers on social media and is recognised as one of the first Emirati gymnasts making waves in Rhythmic Gymnastics.
Soon, she would require a licence from the country’s federation to compete in junior level World Championships or international competitions to represent the UAE.
Training under accomplished World Champion Ksenia Dzhalaganiya who runs the Dubai Youth Olympic School has provided her a direction and appropriate technique in the sport but as time ticks for Lamia, who will be turning nine in May, to start competing at a more competitive level, the fear that all the training and mentoring may be wasted plays on her family’s mind. As without a federation, Lamia’s aim of competing in the Youth Olympics in 2026 may not be accomplished.
“Change is the need of the hour as if the right support is not extended, this young athlete who has been training tirelessly after school for years may not be able to meet her goal of representing her country in the Olympics,” said Tariq.
“Lamia is a national level athlete in the UAE, but she will need a licence from a local governing body to participate in recognised competitions or even Olympic qualifying events.
“In absence of the governing body, she will be unable to register and provide the documents required internationally, without which she may not be in a position to even compete at accredited and recognised international competitions in the future.
“Lamia travels every year to different training camps in Europe and Russia to get tips from different Olympic and World Championship level coaches. She has forgone her childhood to train in a competitive sport by working like a professional from a young age.
“‘There are more Emirati children who are interested in the sport due to what Lamia has achieved and is striving to achieve,” says her coach Dzhalaganiya.
“But their first question is always whether a federation is in place or being put in place as they fear the lack of support from the government authorities.”
Dzhalaganiya, who is the only World Champion based in the UAE and training children for the Olympic Sport, still feels that a lot more needs to be done in the form of training and supporting athletes like Lamia.
In December 2019, the Russian national team led by the enigmatic Irina Viner Usmanova, the head coach of Russian national team and the president of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, trained in the Dubai Youth Olympic School in Dubai as part of a camp that Dzhalaganiya organised.
Lamia along with a handful of athletes got to meet and watch the best Rhythmic Gymnasts in the World who are World Champions, European champions and are preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Viner, who is the longest serving federation President and has helped set up many federations and athletes across the globe, was invited by NAS Sports to bring the Grand Prix or World Championships of Rhythmic Gymnastics to Dubai, and she also stated that without any governing body in the UAE, she would be unable to organise championships on that level in the country.Viner also recommended Lamia to be given the support as she saw the Emirati gymnast as a budding talent for the UAE.
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