Jordan Prince eyes inspiration first medal
LONDON (Reuters) - Jordanian royalty were ringside in London on Saturday to watch the country's first Olympic boxer in action, dreaming of a first Olympic medal that Prince Feisal Al Hussein believes would transform sport in the Arab state.
Up against Cuban world light-heavyweight amateur champion Julio la Cruz Peraza, Jordan's lone fighter from the Palestinian refugee camp of Baqa'a near the capital of Amman was unlikely to make that dream come true and so it proved in a 25-8 loss.
While their best chance of Olympic success will come in Taekwondo, Prince Feisal, brother of Jordan's King Abdullah, said Ihab Almatbouli had done the country proud after winning its first Olympic bout in style last week.
"We're all very proud of him and I think that's how all Jordanians feel," Prince Feisal told Reuters after watching the bout with his son, Prince Omar Al Feisal and Princess Zeina Rashid, a former Olympic table tennis player.
"I think he has captured the imagination of not just a lot of Jordanians and the plight of a lot of Jordanians, but I think a lot of people around the world. He's done an amazing job and we hope to support him to get to the next stage of competition."
The Prince said he had spoken to his brother earlier this week about the fight while his sister rang him after the bout to say she had watched it on television and that Almatbouli had done a fantastic job.
Unlike gas-rich tiny Qatar who are investing heavily in sport, Jordan's finances have been hurt by regional protests, gas supply disruptions and turmoil from the Arab Spring in neighboring states, forcing it to seek a $2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this week.
But Prince Feisal, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and was a keen volleyball player at university, said sport had been getting good support in the country and that improvements were being seen.
"We're looking at opportunities in a number of different sports and I think it is growing. I'm hoping you will see far more Jordanians coming to the Olympics in the future," he said.
"I think sport can do so much and it's a fantastic tool in particularly for peace and development and that's what we've been trying to focus on."
Jordan have punched above their weight in soccer and are still in the hunt for a place at the 2014 World Cup while their nine-strong contingent in London is the largest Olympic team they have ever sent to a Games.
Hopes of a first Olympic medal rest chiefly on the shoulders of highly ranked Mohammad Abulibdeh, who competes in the men's 68 kilogramme Taekwondo on Thursday while Nadin Dawani goes in the 67 kg women's category two days later.
Raya Hatahet, who was enjoying a holiday in London before being called up at to the squad to replace an injured competitor just two weeks ago, completes the Taekwondo trio. A medal from any of them would make a huge difference, Prince Feisal said.
"I'm hoping for our first medal in the Olympics and that would hopefully inspire a lot more Jordanians to get involved in sport and support sports," he said.
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