No less than 28 World University Championships have been set down for 2006, from Mongolia to Nigeria, from the USA to China, and from Belgium to Cuba, with the first two already contested. The FISU Forum in Abu Dhabi added to the busy schedule and last, but not least, FISU delegates attended the 69th AIPS Congress in Doha, Qatar.
8th FISU Forum
The 8th FISU Forum, FISU’s biannual educational event, held in the United Arab Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi in March was a huge success.
The UAE Higher Education Sports Federation, represented by Secretary General Dr. Omar A. Al Hai, was an excellent host and gave participants access to the first-rate facilities of the Armed Forces Officers Club and a general programme that afforded students and officials the opportunity to exchange experiences on the main topic: “University Sport, a tool for individual and social development understanding diversity’’.
Leading UAE education authorities took part in the Forum including His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al-Nahayan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and President of the UAE Higher Education Sports Federation, and Mr. Saeed Hamad Al-Hashani, the Under-Secretary for Higher Education. Both had the opportunity to meet with FISU President George E. Killian and the twelve other members of the FISU Executive Committee present at the event.
The Forum has benefited greatly, both from the increasing success of the FISU major sports events, and the increasing attention to educational events. Indeed, after having broken the record of participating countries - 50 - at the 2005 Winter Universiade, Innsbruck/Seefeld (AUT), the record of number of participants – 7,816 - at the 2005 Universiade, Izmir (TUR) and the highest number in the FISU history of World University Championships - 28 for 2006, the Abu Dhabi FISU Forum attracted 54 participating countries and a total number of 214 participants (177 delegates, 13 FISU Executive Committee Members, 15 FISU Family Members and 9 guests). This success follows the record of 43 participating countries at the 2004 FISU Forum held in Lisbon, Portugal. It was pleasing to see an increasing number of women participating. Statistics show the ratio of female students and officials attending speakers’ addresses and work-groups to men was 21/31 for the students and 63/89 for officials.
15th World University Cross Country Championship
March saw the 15th World University Cross Country Championship take place in Algiers, Algeria. It was the first time Algeria’s National University Sports Federation FASU had hosted a FISU event. 168 participants (72 men, 51 women, 45 officials) from 15 countries represented 4 continents.
In the women’s competition, the fans witnessed a tight race between Kate Reed (GBR) and Souad Aït-Salem (ALG), the latter taking the gold medal. The bronze went to Eleanor Baker (GBR). Thanks to the British-dominated podium, Team GBR won the gold medal leaving the silver to Algeria and the bronze to Italy.
The men’s race was completely dominated by the Moroccans cashing in all three medals: gold for Fadil Mohamed, silver went to Lamachi Abdelkebir and bronze to Azzouzi Abdelaziz. This is a first in WUC Cross Country history. Obviously Team Morocco also won the gold medal, leaving the silver to Algeria and the bronze to Spain, cutting off South Africa and preventing an all-African team podium.
4th World University Cycling Championship
After a 16 year absence cycling has made a successful comeback as a university sport. The 4th World University Cycling Championships were staged in Herentals, Belgium from March 20th to 26th. Athletes contested five disciplines: Individual Time Trail for Men and Women, Individual Road Race for Men and Women and Cyclo Cross for Men. This year’s event broke previous participation records with 17 countries representing 3 continents sending a total of 173 participants (86 men, 33 women and 54 officials).
Women's Road Race
Ellen Van Dijk (NED) won the gold in the women's race, leaving the silver to Eva Lutz (GER) and the bronze to Ludivine Henrion (BEL).
Men's Road Race
The gold went to Yvo Kusters (NED) leaving the silver for time trial bronze medallist Michiel Van Aelbroeck (BEL) and bronze to Malaya Van Ruitenbeek (NED) Time Trialgold medallist.
Both men’s and women’s races were dominated by Dutch cyclists with Loes Gunnewijk winning women’s gold and Malaya Van Ruitenbeek taking home the men’s gold medal. Women’s silver was won by Ellen Van Dijk and bronze went to Germany’s Verena Jooss. The host country was represented in the men’s event with Michiel Van Aelbroeck winning bronze. The other medals went to Germans Verena Jooss, bronze women and Tobias Erler, silver men.
A moment of the Cyclo Cross championship (photo by Christian Pierre)
The city of Herentals is located in the geographic region of ‘De Kempen', which is well known for Cyclo Cross and its champions. Erwin Vervecken, the reigning UCI World Cyclo Cross Champion lives in the vicinity of Herentals and together with1994 UCI World Champion Paul Herijgers witnessed the FISU race. Vervecken signalled the riders for the start of the race and presented the World University Cycling Championship Jersey to the winner. The modest and affable Erwin Vervecken showed a real interest for this year’s University competition: “I'm really involved in the young riders' training”, he told FISU Media. “Moreover, ten years ago, I achieved a degree in accountancy, so I know how hard studying can be if you must practice at the same time.”
A large crowd of spectators watched and cheered the four Belgian participants and were not disappointed when Belgian Tom Van Den Bosch won the bronze medal. Sebastian Hannover (GER) won the gold and the silver went to Axel Bult (NED). It was a tight race between Hannover and Bult with a little sprint at the end. Belgian Van Den Bosch was racing in fourth position for most of the race, however, with three laps to go he took advantage of a gap left by René Birkenfelt (GER) and raced past the German and never gave up that spot for the rest of the race.
After 16 years absence, the World University Cycling Championship is back on track and it seems it will stay that way. With a number of countries already interested in bidding for the 2008 and 2010 Championships, the future of the newly launched championship looks promising. And there is no doubt that during the most recent event we might have discovered future stars of the professional circuit.
69th AIPS Congress
Since FISU refreshed its relationship with AIPS, delegates attended this year’s 69th Annual AIPS Congress in Doha, Qatar, host city of the 2006 Asian Games. FISU was represented by EC member and Chairman of the International Press Commission, Leonz Eder and Media Staff member, Christian Pierre. FISU delegates presented an overview of 2005’s sporting events (Universiades) and a preview of the 28 World University Championships to be staged this year. The FISU representatives took the opportunity to network with delegates of the AIPS member federations, especially those where a WUC will take place in 2006, as well as the chairmen of a number individual AIPS sports commissions.
By Christian PIERRE & Kolë GJELOSHAJ