Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Disabled are now determined

The 2018 Special Olympics IX MENA Games in Abu Dhabi ends today after some exciting play. Inas Mazhar reports from the UAE


Special Olympics athletes on the podium,playing badminton and competing in basketball at the IX MENA Games in Abu Dhabi

Egyptian teams are dominating most of the events at the 2018 Special Olympics IX Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Games in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. With a delegation of 160, including 116 athletes, Special Olympics Egypt is the biggest delegation followed by Syria.

Special Olympics athletes on the podium,playing badminton and competing in basketball at the IX MENA Games in Abu Dhabi

The one-week event also saw medals awarded to outstanding athletes from across the region and beyond. Both Special Olympics International and the organisers in Abu Dhabi agreed to invite countries from other regions as a test event to allow them to experience the World Games before it takes place next year in the same city.

Special Olympics athletes on the podium,playing badminton and competing in basketball at the IX MENA Games in Abu Dhabi

“The idea came from both sides actually, us at the Special Olympics International and the Abu Dhabi programme for all to practise together, an attempt to perform and stretch to the highest level. It was important for us to bring all the MENA region together and others as well for maximum participation,” Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics International, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Shriver, who visited the UAE for the IX MENA Games, urged athletes to take part in free health screenings conducted by a team of local health clinicians.  “We are here to meet the athletes face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart and to end the labelling that leads to discrimination and marginalisation once and for all.”

Shriver also praised the UAE for its commitment to inclusion across every segment of society. “The term ‘disability’ has been erased here in the UAE. It has been replaced with ‘determination’,” he said.

In his welcome message, he praised Egypt’s special Olympian Dina Galal who Shriver said was his example to all participating athletes as a symbol of will and determination and how Special Olympics had really changed her life. “She was here with us and she deserved her story to be mentioned for others to look up to,” Shriver told the Weekly.

The opening days of the tournament saw athletes from 32 countries presented with medals for outstanding achievements in 16 sports on the track, court and field. 

Honoured guests handed out gold, silver and bronze medals as well as participation medals to the delighted athletes as their friends, family and teammates cheered. Egypt’s Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali had led the Egyptian delegation in the opening ceremony and attended almost all the events they took part in, showing great support and distributed medals in the awards ceremony.

The UAE topped the medals charts in cycling with six in a series of races held at the Yas Marina Circuit, including gold in divisions 2 and 4 of the men’s 5km time trial.

In tennis, played at Zayed Sports City, Monaco beat the UAE 4-0 and 4-1. Monaco’s Christophe Matte expressed his happiness at the victory on his first day on the court. His coach said he is now preparing the team to win the next match and is aiming for the gold medal.

Syria lost 6-2 to Tunisia over two games. The Syrian coach said his player Mohamed Ayli “did everything possible” but was beaten by his opponent’s speed in moving towards the ball.

“This will not diminish the determination of the team to win the next games,” he said. “The players are working on their full preparation for stronger confrontations.”

More than 20 Special Olympians from eight countries strapped on their roller skates to compete in the 30m straight line, 100m, 300m and 2x100m relay races.  

At the awards ceremony, Emirati Khalifa Ahmed Alamiri proudly wore his tally of three medals in roller-skating around his neck.

“I won a sliver, a bronze and a gold. Three medals,” he said. “I’m so proud and so happy that I won.”

Khalifa took home gold in his division of the 2x100m relay, silver in the 100m and bronze in the 300m.

Aya Ismail from Syria, Tinhinane Tamzait from Algeria and Seyed Saeid Eilali from Iran won gold in divisions 1, 2 and 3 respectively in the 30m straight line.  

A series of exciting 300m races saw Emiratis Aysha Alnuaimi and Sayah Alhabash, Egyptians Shahd Nasser Suleiman and Sherif Mohamed Abdel-Hamid Nada, and Jordanians Abdullah Al-Nahhas and Youssef Youssef all take home gold medals for winning their divisions. 

“I loved being part of these Special Olympics. It gave me an opportunity to show that I too can win and bring medals for my country,” said Fardad Ghazimoghadam from Iran who came third in the 300m division 3 category. 

Aya Ismail from Syria, a winner in one of the 30m straight line races, said: “I have been practising for the last year with my coach to be part of this wonderful game and that hard work has paid off today.” 

Syrian Nejmeh Al-Amouri was making her debut in powerlifting. The 16-year-old won silver for squat lifting 60kg in division F2.

The teenager said her family encouraged her to take up the sport. Al-Amouri trains regularly and credits the hard work she puts into her powerlifting with boosting her self-confidence.

In athletics, Egyptian Aya Salah Abdel-Rahman celebrated winning a gold medal in the 200 metres division 3. “I am very happy to win this gold medal. I would like to dedicate the medal to my coach who helped a lot in training so I can get first place.”

Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to 5.7 million athletes in 172 countries.

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