Zayed Sports City’s annual Ramadan Bowling Tournament supported by National Drilling Company (NDC) celebrated its biggest and most exciting competition in its 17-year history, as Emirati star Naif Oqab topped a field of more than 200 bowlers to clinch his second consecutive Open Division title in a nail-biting finale.

The record-breaking tournament saw a 25 percent increase on participation from 2015. Anchored by 121 Emirati participants, this year’s local talent was put to the ultimate test at the region’s most prestigious annual bowling tournament.

Oqab triumphed over tough competition, keeping his cool under pressure to claim the coveted Ramadan Bowling trophy with a score of 2977. Filipina Uella Marcial narrowly missed out on the top spot, taking second place with a score of 2968, whilst Emirati Shaker Ali came third with 2958 points.

Fuelled by the excitement of the World Bowling Championships which were held at Zayed Sports City in 2014 and 2015, the sport has witnessed an unprecedented boost in popularity, particularly amongst younger Emiratis. The Youth Division of the 2016 Ramadan Bowling Tournament witnessed a 176 percent increase in participation on 2015, fuelled entirely by UAE nationals.

Ahmad Khamis Al Ali, Team Manager at the UAE Bowling Federation explained that youth are getting more support than ever. He said: “We are very happy to have so many young Emirati bowlers. The federation is providing them coaching, equipment, and competitive opportunities abroad so they can grow. This is important because they are the future in the sport. You can start them with proper habits and support their development into great players.”

In the field of 47 juniors, British Samantha Hannan took the top spot with 1,256 points, with the inspirational young Emirati Khamis Al Shamsi coming a close second with 1,232 points. The pair also competed in the Open division, with Hannan placing sixth and Al Shamsi qualifying for the semi-final round.

After losing an impressive 45 kg, 18 year-old Al Shamsi used his improved athleticism to withstand the competition of both divisions. He said “Bowling is interesting and we meet a lot of new people through it. Competition is much higher in the open division and the older bowlers inspire and push you to keep bowling.”

The tournament’s Graded Division for amateur bowlers saw Filipino talent Shean Aguas take top honours for a second year running after bowling a stunning 222.0 average throughout the final.

In the Disabled division, Walid Mohamed Arjumand bowled an impressive score of 538 points to win the Men’s event title. The Ladies event was dominated by Nasra Ahmed Al Seqatri, who bowled her way into first place with 332 points.

Barry Bremner, General Manager at Zayed Sports City commented: “The growth of our Ramadan Bowling Tournament in 2016 is unprecedented and we are delighted with the results. Specifically to see that young UAE nationals are embracing the sport validates our efforts and the support from NDC, in addition to the time put in by bowlers and their coaches.”

The tournament attracted members of the men’s and women’s UAE national team as well as participants representing 10 other nationalities to compete for a piece of the AED 149,500 cash pot provided by NDC.