Friday,27 April, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1343, (4 - 10 May 2017)
Friday,27 April, 2018
Issue 1343, (4 - 10 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Meeting the president

Egyptian Special Olympics were honoured by the head of state for their outstanding achievements at the World Winter Games

With the president1

Five Special Olympics athletes were thrilled as they received their certificates of honour from President Abdel-Fatah Al-Sissi. Egypt took part at the World Winter Games which took place in Austria in March, winning five medals after beating snow-filled odds.

Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to more than 5.3 million athletes in nearly 170 countries.

In Austria, Egypt’s Special Olympics athletes struck gold even though they were playing on unfamiliar terrain. Egypt, a country that never or rarely sees snow, managed to claim three gold, a silver and a bronze in snowshoeing and floor hockey, the two sports it took part in.

Meeting the president2

One of the three gold medals was won by the floor hockey team while the other two were collected by Mohamed Abdo in 100 metre snowshoeing and the third by the snowshoeing race team in the 4x100 metre relay which comprised Abdo, Shaaban Ashraf and two female athletes Israa Gamal and Alaa Abdel-Aziz. Abdo added another silver medal to his tally in the 200-metre snowshoeing. The bronze was taken by Gamal in the 100 metres snowshoeing.

Ayman Abdel-Wahab, president and regional managing director of Special Olympics in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, told Al-Ahram Weekly that he was so happy with the president’s honouring of the athletes “because they really deserved it.

“The president has been a great supporter of the Special Olympics movement and a great fan of the athletes themselves since attending the opening ceremony of the MENA Regional Games in 2015. The athletes deserved this appreciation from the president because they have honoured their country and made us proud with their brilliant performances and remarkable results at the World Games. They achieved the impossible by winning their medals and have been truly amazing in both sports,” said Abdel-Wahab who had to cut an official visit to Abu Dhabi short to fly back home to attend the presidential ceremony.

“I had to come back to witness the honouring of the Egyptian athletes because though I am the regional manager and president of the MENA region in charge of 32 countries, I am an Egyptian above all. So, once I knew they would be honoured that day, I came back immediately on the first flight which arrived at dawn,” Abdel-Wahab added.

In his post since 2001, Abdel-Wahab said that at the beginning only four countries took part in the World Winter Games in Alaska. “Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. It was easier for the Lebanese and the Jordanians because they already have snow but it was difficult for the Egyptians and the Kuwaitis who rarely have snow. These two countries had to train on sand because I believed that friction from sand is that of snow and it worked. So we continued training and the number of participating countries increased in the Winter Games every edition. So, from only four countries in 2001, 17 took part in Austria which is a great achievement for the region and which proves the real perseverance and stamina of the athletes.

Meeting the president

“The region only took part in two of the nine scheduled sports for the event: floor hockey ad snowshoeing. For Egypt to achieve these five medals from among the 106 nations who took part in the Games is a great achievement especially with 2,600 athletes taking part.”

Abdel-Wahab said the president’s honouring also shows how Special Olympics and the intellectually disabled are being recognised by the nation, “all coming and happening because of sports and the achievements of these athletes. Special Olympics has developed the intellectual disabled and changed their lives after interacting with society. They have developed other skills on the way and have become capable of expressing themselves, and this is what makes us happy.”

He praised the UAE for its work with the intellectually disabled and the new laws it has passed to protect them and ensure they have obtained all their rights in society.

“Their efforts and work for Special Olympics is really very impressive and this is why the city of Abu Dhabi has won the right to host the World Summer Games in 2018. For the first time, a Games of any kind is coming to the MENA region since the creation of the international movement in 1968 and it all happened because Abu Dhabi persuaded the international board that they were the best to host this event and they are not only glad to take the Games to the MENA region, but confident it would be a spectacular event and that Abu Dhabi will dazzle the world and organise the best ever Special Olympics World Games.”

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