Recently Jordan celebrated one year to go until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and one of the many questions put to chef de mission Nadin Dawani was ‘what Jordanian athletes will be going?’
That is always the million dollar question at this time in the planning process.
Over the past three years, the Jordan Olympic Committee has worked closely with its federations to firstly identify, and then to support the talent that are believed to be in with a chance of going.
One sport that has really stood out this Olympic cycle is boxing. The sport took prominence at the 2014 Asian Games when three boxers won medals.
It prompted the JOC to plough more support into the sport with no less than eight boxers having aspirations to follow team captain Ihab Darwish onto the greatest stage of all. Darwish made history by qualifying to the London 2012 Games.
And that JOC support has delivered a top class coach. Izzaldein Aqoun has arrived from Algeria with a track record of bringing boxers through to Olympic levels.
When www.joc.jo caught up with him, he was putting the team through its paces, and he is confident that one or two, or possibly more, could reach Rio standards.
“I received many offers to train Olympic teams but I wanted to come to Jordan because of the potential,” he said.
“I believe I can bring this group of boxers through to compete at the very top of the international levels.”
Over 30 national team boxers are on his roster and he hopes that during his one-year in Jordan, the federation will adopt his approach of planning long term.
“It’s not easy to reach a podium in the sport,” he said. “A boxer has to train well from a very young age. A country should invest in these young talents and train them to be ready for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games, not just Rio next year.
“It will not be an easy task to qualify to Rio. The Asian qualifications are tough as Asian boxers are improving all the time. But I believe that Jordan’s boxers can make it. How many? I am not sure of that but I am sure we will have boxing representing Jordan in Rio.”
Aqoun explained that there are five ways of qualifying to Rio. The first two are through the WSP and ABP Championships; the third is through the World Championships in Qatar in December. The other two ways are through the Asian route, which begins in March 2016 and finally the ‘international qualifications’ which provide a last chance in June next year.
Having been here more than a month, what are the coach’s impressions so far?
“We have tough boxers in Jordan with the skills to qualify,” he said. “I’m sure that they only need to have faith in themselves to go that extra step. We will work on this and instill the faith inside them all so they will be ready and give it their best shot.”
Aqoun’s strategic plan contains a number of overseas camps in preparation for the big dates in the diary, starting with the International Thailand Championship in September ahead of the World Championship in Qatar two months later.
Boxing has really come onto the national sporting agenda thanks to the heroics of its team, but only time will tell whether they can box clever all the way to South America next summer.