Aspire's first graduating class!

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It was a historic day for Aspire Academy yesterday as 23 students passed out from the institution in its first graduation ceremony, attended by athletics great Hicham El Guerrouj.

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The students, most of whom joined the Academy at its launch in 2004, some at the age of just 13 years, have since received academic education as well as sports training to prepare them for full sporting careers in disciplines including football, table tennis, athletics, swimming and squash.

Speaking on the occasion, Guerrouj, a triple world record holder and Aspire Academy Ambassador, said there is need for more Aspire-like academies in the Arab world to give sports talent in the region a boost.

"We have excellent human resources in the area and I hope leaders from the region will follow Aspire and start more academies which combine both sports and academics and prepare sportspersons for further challenges," said the Moroccan athlete, who is called the King of the Mile.

But then the double Olympian, who broke records in the 1,500m, the mile and 2,000m, cautioned that the people in charge need to be patient when it comes to results.

"When the Aspire Academy was started, it was with the objective to produce athletes like me and footballers like Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho. The dream is on the right path. But the people in charge should know the goals can be attained and that is not difficult, but one has to be patient."

Guerrouj who was guest of honour for the graduation ceremony, spoke to the students about the importance of study and dedication for a successful career in athletics.

On the seven athletes who graduated from the academy yesterday, he said they were "good athletes who will reach their goals", and for that they must maintain their "rhythm and enthusiasm".

"I see hope in their eyes and potential to succeed. They must carry on their dedication and love for the sport and perform to their potential. Aspire has provided them with the platform, now it is up to them to carry forward the values and principles that Aspire has inculcated into them. "

"Internationally, Aspire is recognized as a pioneering project to discover and develop world-class athletic talent in Qatar. The students who have graduated today are among the first pioneers and they deserve our congratulations and support," he said.

He termed the graduating students as "new ambassadors for Aspire and for Qatar".

Aspire's Career Management programmes provided the students guidance throughout their time at Aspire, ensuring that every student athlete passing out of the Academy possessed a professional or academic career plan consistent with his capabilities and interests.

Experts from Aspire's Quality Management, Education and Social Affairs Department ensured that the young men were provided with a programme of learning, including indoor and outdoor class experience.

Prof Dr Dieter Hackfort, Dean of Aspire, said: "Each and every student has made remarkable progress during their time with us in their personal development and in achieving success both academically and in their chosen sport. These students will be an inspirational example and will induce motivation in other students at Aspire and in other young athletes in the region."

The Pen

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