The Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) has introduced a number of exciting new faces to represent Qatar in a series of world-class sports events that Qatar will host in Doha throughout March.

The QOC, Qatar Tennis Federation and young, up and coming gymnastics and tennis athletes were presented to the local media as part of a series of monthly media briefings about the QOC’s work. Director of PR and Marketing at QOC and Executive Director of the Schools Olympic Program (SOP), Mohammed Al Fadala, said:

Qatar has much national talent and young athletes emerging through a deep-rooted and progressive sports development programme. 2014 was a hugely proud year for Qatar in sport when as a nation we made significant strides on the field of play as well as off it. With so much happening in terms of hosting events, it’s vitally important for the Qatar Olympic Committee to showcase the new faces that will proudly go on to represent Qatar. They deserve and need the support of all in Qatar if they are to go on and fulfil their personal ambitions and that of this passionate sports nation. Our young people need role models – sporting icons that they can aspire to and learn from – so making them familiar figures and profiling them in media is all part of Qatar’s sporting journey.’

Abdullah ShananAl Fadala took the media through the upcoming Schools Olympic Program finals, as well as the Gymnastics World Cup, and held a discussion with young gymnasts, Rahma Al Dulaimi and Farah Mahmoud, about their lives as elite athletes and their hopes for the future. According to the Executive Director of the Qatar Tennis Federation and Director of the World Schools Tennis Championships, Saad Al Mohannadi, the World Schools Tennis Championships is currently taking place at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. Al Mohannadi held a discussion with young tennis players, Jassim Al Zeyara and Abdulla Shanan, who are currently competing in the World Schools Tennis Championships. Al Zeyara said:

These Championships are a great opportunity for us as athletes. We get to compete against some of the best tennis players in the world on our home turf. I’m incredibly excited to be taking part in this tournament as well as the ITF Futures Open on 30 March and with the unwavering support of the Qatar Tennis Federation, I feel like I have a lot to offer my country.’

The Doha 2015 World Schools Tennis Championships are organised jointly by the Qatar Tennis Federation and Qatar Schools Sports Association and are being staged in the Middle East for the first time in history. Young athletes from 16 countries from around the world are competing in the Championships, including France, China and Australia. The Championships are held once every two years, and the 2013 edition was hosted in Australia. Doha’s staging of this event shows the commitment of the Qatar Tennis Federation to developing tennis from a young age, exposing Qatar’s rising tennis players to world-class sport in state-of-the-art facilities and providing an environment in which they can excel. Al Mohannadi said:

I believe we have set a new standard for hosting the World Schools Tennis Championship. Our capable and experienced team has managed to organise an exceptional edition of the Championships and have also gained even more valuable experience in hosting such events. Already in its third day, the Championship has been greatly successful with over 300 athletes competing as well as dozens of team officials.’

The SOP finals will be taking place at Aspire Dome on 19 March for girls and 20 March for boys. All competitions for the latter will be available for the public and media to view. Now in its eighth edition, the SOP has grown from 7,099 participants from 300 schools in 2007 to 26,454 participants from 461 schools last year. This year’s SOP also saw the number of sports on the program rise to 14, with the addition of Taekwondo. The SOP aims to introduce students across Qatar to sport at a grass roots level, educating them through the Olympic value and ensuring that sport will become an integral part of their future lives. In addition, the SOP serves as the first level on Qatar’s sporting pathway and the identification and development of young talent is a key objective. One such example is young gymnast, Rahma Al Dulaimi, who represented Qatar at last summer’s Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China and is a graduate of the SOP programme. Al Dulaimi said:

Competing in the Youth Olympics last year was such an amazing experience. I took so much from it and seeing the other gymnasts from around the world and how they performed was incredible. I got to where I am today because of my experience with the Schools Olympic Program. I took part in the Program for the last three years and it has given me exposure to competitions and has helped me become more confident as an athlete.’

Al Dulaimi will also be competing in the 8th FIG Gymnastics World Challenge Cup, which is taking place in the Aspire Dome from 25 to 27 March 2015. Organised by the Qatar Gymnastics Federation, the event has been hosted annually in Doha since 2008. The 2015 edition will see 150 gymnasts from 33 countries compete, including Olympic and World Champion on Rings, Zanette Arthur, and Olympic and World silver medalist, Larisa Iordache. Qatar will be represented at the World Cup by three gymnasts – Ahmed Al Dayani, Mahmoud Al Sadi, and Farah Mahmoud. The competition provides a fantastic opportunity for Qatar’s rising gymnasts to compete against the world’s top gymnasts and gain valuable experience for their future careers. Doha will be hosting the 2018 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, which many of these Qatari stars will be hoping to compete in, and the Qatar Gymnastics Federations aims to raise the profile of gymnastics in Qatar and across the whole of the Middle East, inspire more young people to take up gymnastics and assist with the global development of the sport. On representing Qatar in the World Challenge Cup, Mahmoud said:

The World Challenge Cup is a great chance for me to get experience. Of course I hope to win but at this point in my career there are so many coming tournaments that I will take part in and I just want to gain as much experience and exposure to high-level competition as I can as that will help me in the tournaments to come.’

Qatar’s hosting of world-class events such as the World Schools Tennis Championships, the annual Gymnastics World Challenge Cup and the 2018 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, and development of programmes and initiatives such as the SOP are all part of its overall formula to develop sport at all levels across the whole of Qatar, inspiring greater participation amongst the community, educating through the values of sport, creating more sporting heroes and developing a professional coaching environment.