The Maktoum family, rulers of Dubai, have a substantial interest in horseracing, with their stud farms in England, America and Australia, and the huge Godolphin string of horses which are in action pretty well every day. Yet racing isn’t the only sporting interest in the family.
Members of the family regular take part in endurance horse riding, and in 2006 Rashid Maktoum took the gold medal in that discipline at the Asian Games and teamed up with brothers Ahmed, Majid and Hamdan in the team event. The United Arab Emirates has a reasonable women’s taekwondo team, which sister Maitha has led, and a cousin is a top show jumper.
Sheikh Ahmed was his country’s squash champion for fifteen years before taking up shooting in 1998. His mastery of that sport took him to the Athens Olympics in 2004 and a gold medal in the double trap. In time, it also led him to Peter Wilson, who won gold yesterday for Great Britain in the same event.
It took a bit of impudence on the part of Wilson to obtain the services of the Sheikh as his coach, but once he had done so there was no holding back for the farmer’s boy from Sherborne. Wilson ran out of Lottery funding three years ago and went up to the Sheik and asked him to take over as his coach when the two met at a competition. A visit to Dubai to look over Wilson’s technique sealed the deal.
Wilson acknowledged how unlikely a scenario it was when he said, “This man is a prince. It’s quite bonkers really that he agreed to coach me. I’m just so honoured. It’s as if Prince William was teaching me how to fly a helicopter.”
Sheikh Ahmed watched from the stands of the Royal Artillery Barracks, and was one of the first to congratulate Wilson, heaping praise on his student. He said, “I was tough with him. I taught him my style. He had to put up with the pressure. He had to be independent, responsible and tough and he was. All he does is exercise and shoot – he gave up everything in life.”