The final decision rests between the UAE's Italian coach, Raymondo TONELLI, and Sid BENSALAH, sailing director at Dubai International Marine Club where a youth sailing programme introduced SHAHEEN and a crop of UAE youngsters to the sport seven years ago.
But BENSALAH said today, 'Ahmed is very talented, and he's in pole position to be the UAE skipper for the Asian Games. He's a brilliant sailor, he's young, and he's lucky to have Raymondo as a coach.'
Advancing from dinghy sailing in the Optimist and Laser 4.7, the UAE squad preparing for the Asian Games have been match racing only since last year. Skipper SHAHEEN is currently 845 in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, which puts him a long way behind India's Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN at 73 and Turkey's Orkun SOYER at 160, who led the round robin series in the ISAF Grade 2 Regional Final with eight wins each compared to SHAHEEN's four victories after the first two days.
But at times the 17 year old has looked every bit the equal of the more senior and experienced Indian and Turkish skippers, and both TONELLI and BENSALAH feel he is making steady progress and will grow in stature with experience.
SHAHEEN first took up sailing after he and his 16 year old brother, Omar, a member of his ISAF Nations Cup crew this week, had a chance meeting with Captain Issa ABDULLAH, youth team leader at Dubai International Marine Club.
'No one from our family has sailed before,' said Ahmed. 'Seven years ago, when we were fishing, we met Captain Issa who invited us to start sailing at the club. We started in the optimists, then went into the lasers and began match racing last year.
'We love the sea, and we're enjoying ourselves this week. We have a very nice crew and we're all like brothers. There's no fighting between us, even if we lose.'
The SHAHEEN brothers are joined by Adel Ali AL MARAZIQ, Jassm Ehab AHMAD and Ibrahim AL DOWAIS. The second UAE team, skippered by Yousuf KHALID MOHAMMED, also includes his brothers Adel KHALID and Hamed KHALID, as well as Tawfeeq AL MARZOUQI and Ahmeed Mohammad AL MUTAWAR.
Unusually light winds delayed the start of the third day of the ISAF Nations Cup Regiona Final this morning but the round robin series was resuming later this afternoon.
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