GYMNASTICS is a relatively new sport in Qatar, but its governing body, under the leadership of Ali Ahmed Al Hitmi, has come in for special praise for its way of functioning.

Doha is getting ready to host the Artistic World Championships next year and former international gymnastics federation (FIG) president Bruno Grandi, who stepped down after 20 years at the helm, had recently heaped praised on the Qatar Gymnastics Federation (QGF) for its positive attitude.

Al Hitmi, who is also one of the seven FIG Executive Committee members, spoke to Doha Stadium Plus about a variety of topics including the 2018 Artistic Worlds and the QGF’s development programmes.

How’ll the 2018 Artistic World Championships help popularise the sport in Qatar? 

The Worlds will be a good opportunity to develop the sport not only in the country, but also in the region. The championship will help it gain further mileage. 

I’m hopeful that more parents will be encouraged to send their kids to take up gymnastics. In the past, we’ve seen how the FIG Artistic World Cup Series, which we host every year, has influenced the parents to register their children at our training centre. 

The Worlds will boost sports tourism and also showcase Qatar’s excellent organisational qualities. Our experience in hosting the annual World Cup will motivate us to stage one of the best events.

What’re the problems being faced by the QGF?

Like in most other sports, gymnasts are very few in number. Despite our best efforts to retain them, they leave the sport once they grow up and a majority of them takes up football which offers them better incentives and job security. We’re trying hard to engage school students through our various age-group championships. We are thankful to the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) for its support and guidance. 

When can Qatar produce a world-class gymnast?

Without the support of QOC and parents, it’s impossible to achieve such a dream. We need concrete planning and concerted effort. A special education programme should be made mandatory for students of 4-5 age group at all schools. This will help us find the talented ones who can then be groomed under our coaches.

But the most important thing is to have a professional mentality. The aspiring students will have to make a lot of sacrifices if they want to become a successful gymnast. 

A lot of Qatari students are burdened with studies, but they spend their leisure time at malls and elsewhere. They should be able to balance education and it’s here that they need parents’ support. 

Tell us about the QGF’s development programmes…

The federation has big dreams to promote gymnastics. We’re working hard to make the sport mandatory at schools. In the past couple of years, we’ve been able to form age-group teams for boys and girls. They’ve done well at the GCC and Arab Championships, but we want to achieve good results at top international competitions. That’s our target.

How are the FIG Artistic World Cup Series preparations going?

The QGF wants to produce another successful event like the previous nine editions. It’ll be held at the Aspire Dome from March 22 to 25. It’s a Class A competition which will also be held in Melbourne (Australia), Baku (Azerbaijan) and Cottbus (Germany) this year. 

The past tournaments have helped us in a big way to understand the intricacies involved in hosting a major event. We’re confident to deliver the best. 

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