THE Qatar Gymnastics Federation (QGF) wants to give more importance to the Schools Olympic Programme (SOP) as it looks to develop the sport in the country. 

The SOP is being organised by the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) in association with the Qatar School Sports Association (QSSA), Supreme Education Council (SEC) and Qatar Paralympic Committee.

Football, basketball, handball, volleyball, shooting and swimming are the other disciplines in the programme.

The QGF actively participates in the SOP every year while its coaches spot talents from the competition which has helped other sports as well in a big way. 

“We’ll continue to focus on the SOP.  It’s the best way to unearth talents from schools, where the sport is followed enthusiastically,” QGF President Ali Ahmed Al Hitmi told Doha Stadium Plus.

“We’ve also been able to create a platform for gymnasts through our development programmes, including the annual FIG (international gymnastics federation) Artistic Individual Apparatus World Cup.

“The SOP is very popular among schoolchildren. We hope we can discover more talents next year,” said Al Hitmi, who is also the QSSA Secretary General.

Gymnastics’ growing popularity in the country is a result of the QGF’s dedicated approach towards various grass-roots programmes. Several youngsters have been spotted from the previous SOP editions and the federation’s own training programmes.

Qatar wants to build a strong national side, which will be a force to be reckoned with at least in the region, and the QGF’s approach seems to be on the right track. 

“Our aim is to instil a love for the sport in children at a young age and develop them into champions,” said Al Hitmi.

Doha is set to host the 2018 FIG World Championships and the federation wants to gain much mileage from such top international competitions. 

“The Worlds will showcase Qatar in a big way. I thank the FIG for reposing its faith in us. We’ll collaborate with the global governing body to make the event a big success,” he added.

The idea is to capitalise on the pre-championship promotions as a small step towards bigger goals. 

“Gymnastics is one of the basic sports. Every athlete in other disciplines does a little bit of twist or turn whether he’s a footballer or tennis player. There’s an increase in its popularity in the last one decade, but we can achieve bigger targets by hosting big events in the country. That’s a part of the learning method for our competitors,” said the Qatari official. 

Qatar won the right to host the Worlds four years ago. FIG’s former president Bruno Grandi and its present chief Morinari Watanabe had expressed their confidence that Doha had the capability to stage a world-class event.

The Worlds is likely to be held at the Aspire Dome from October 12 and 28, but the dates have yet to be confirmed. 

“We’ve the support from the government and Qatar Olympic Committee. The FIG has also assisted us in the last few years. We’ll put up an amazing show,” said Al Hitmi, who is one of the seven FIG Executive Committee members too. 

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