Muscat, aug 14 – Mohammed Nabil al Balushi has all the trappings of a regular 15-year-old. The Musannah lad has a mischievous smile and a grin that typifies everything about a kid that age. However, that is just about where the similarities with his peers would probably end. With tremendous passion for the rigours of sailing and a willingness to learn, Mohammed is now standing at the cusp of Omani sailing history. Unlike others his age, Mohammed opens a new chapter in his country’s history as he is now headed to the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires to participate in the prestigious Youth Olympic Games, the first ever Omani to compete at the big event.
Mohammed will display his prowess in the Men’s Windsurfing Techno 293+ class at the event which will be held in October this year. The top 25 sailors in the world in this category will participate in the event so the best in the world will be in action.
“I feel super happy, everyone is happy. It is the first time that an Omani sailor has qualified for the Youth Olympic Games. It is a special moment for me and Oman sailing and I hope to make my country proud,’’ Mohammed said.
He said the selection sort of came as a pleasant surprise for him.
“Everyone was expecting Omar al Qartoubi (his team-mate) to qualify, but finally it was me. It feels nice and I am excited,’’ the tenth grader added.
Mohammed’s coach and mentor Sultan al Balushi is full of praise for his protégé and explained the possible reasons for Mohammed’s selection.
“I think his performances and fitness levels were major factors, no doubt. Mohammed’s effort in the European championships in Sicily, Italy, where he finished ninth out of about 60 sailors was noteworthy,’’ he said.
Although Omar finished eighth, the expected conditions in Buenos Aires favoured the selection of Mohammed.
“However, I feel another critical factor is the fact that Mohammed’s strength is his ability to adapt to light and medium winds. In Buenos Aires, we will be facing light to medium winds with an average of 15 to 6 knots and that suits Mohammed’s style the best,’’ Sultan added.
Sultan was also happy about the development of the two 15-year-olds, Mohammed and Omar.
“They were probably the youngest sailors in their category at the European championships I would say. The cut-off year is 2003 for the event, so you had sailors who were 2000 born, but these guys being 2003 born were the youngest I guess,’’ he explained.
“Mohammed started sailing in 2015 and he came from Optimist sailing class. But he prefers windsurfing class, there is more tactical stuff involved and it is physical and fast and he enjoys that,’’ he added.
The coach also felt that Mohammed has progressed because he has a good bunch of talented sailors who are pushing him all the time.
“I have 13 sailors currently training under me and they are all competitive and tough, so that helps Mohammed. The only way you can become better is if you are challenged and pushed and it helps that we have a good fleet of sailors,’’ Sultan stated.
Sultan felt that Mohammed and the rest of the young sailors in his group have the potential to do some special things. “I am quite sure that not just him (Mohammed) but the other sailors as well can perform. If we keep on working the way we are doing and add some new sailors, we can go a long way,’’ he added.
“At the recently concluded World Championships in Latvia, an Omani sailor came seventh out of 60 sailors,’’ he added.
“We have new plans for the 2024 Olympics in France. There are other world events before that and he (Mohammed) will be old enough to compete by then,’’ he added.
Mohammed expects a tough competition in Buenos Aires with some of the best sailors in the world in action.
“It will be very competitive with all the best sailors and I know some of them, they are my friends,’’ he added.
Sultan said they will go there 10 days before the event starts and try to acclimatise to the conditions as it will be a very different environment there.
“It will not be easy for Mohammed. The conditions will be very tricky, there is a lot of current and it will be in a massive channel in the Atlantic Ocean. It will all be about tactics, there will be top 25 sailors in action and of course he is one of them,’’ he said.
The Youth Olympic Games will be held from October 8-18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.