Dubai emerges as favorite destination of sports stars

Better facilities here in Dubai than in France, says F1 driver Pierre Gasly

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DUBAI — As the world of sports came to a complete halt due to COVID-19, many of its top stars chose to stay on in Dubai through the lockdown and now, as the world limps towards reopening, they have saluted the Emirate’s exemplary response to the pandemic as well as the top sports facilities available in the city.

Back in March, as football across the globe came to an abrupt halt, a number of Chinese club football teams were here in Dubai for their off season training and they decided to stay on here, confident in the preventive measures put in place by the country’s visionary leadership.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who drives for Scuderia AlphaTauri in Formula One World Championship, also opted to spend the lockdown in Dubai and, after a two-month stay here, he has saluted the sports facilities available Dubai.

“I [decided to] stay in Dubai for the last two months, because I have better facilities here in Dubai than back in France,” said Gasly, 24, who had arrived in Dubai ahead of the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place, without spectators, between March 20-22, but had to be postponed because of Coronavirus.

“I’ve [just] been training hard the last two months. So that was the good thing; we’ve been really focused on our training since the first day we arrived. At that time of the year, we’re usually traveling every three days... Going to the airports, playing in different countries, in different time zones, and we usually feel quite tired and try [our best] to recover.”

Gasly was staying at the FIVE Palm Jumeirah and despite the closure of public facilities like the hotel gym, the hotel staff created a special gymnasium in an empty apartment nearby so he could continue training safely during isolation.

“We’d train six days a week — three days focusing on the cardio, and three days focusing on more gym-like exercises and strength work,” Gasly said. “The hotel gave us the apartment next door with treadmills, weights... everything we needed to train.”

Gasly also managed to get some track-time at the Dubai Autodrome once the lockdown restrictions eased. “I managed to go to the karting track, so I had a couple of days doing karting, which is always good for practice, and also for fun,” he added.

“Honestly, I really enjoyed my time here over the last two months. I’m probably going to miss it when I leave, but I know I'll come back to Dubai [soon], because I really like this place.”

Italian golfer Renato Paratore has also expressed similar sentiments after spending the lockdown period in Dubai.

Paratore, who has been training in Jumeirah Golf Estates, praised the efforts of the country’s leadership in protecting the community from the spread of coronavirus, as well as the sports facilities, golf in particular, which have helped him to keep training in a safe atmosphere with golf clubs implementing all the safety regulations imposed by authorities. — SG


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