Dubai: While the able-bodied athletes flattered to deceive at the London Olympics, the UAE’s Paralympics team more than compensated as they returned home with three medals — one gold, one silver and a bronze.
Sultan Abdullah Al Aryani won a gold medal in the Mixed R6-50m Rifle Prone-SH1 shooting competition and became only the second person in the UAE’s history to secure gold at the Paralympic Games, while a second medal came from Mohammad Al Hammadi in the T34 200m race where he won silver and followed it up with bronze in T34 100m race.
The achievements by these special needs athletes have made the entire nation proud and should certainly help raise the profile of Paralympic Games in the UAE to new heights, while also bringing more attention to the needs and development of these athletes.
It is no secret that the members of the UAE squad did not receive much attention and preparation for the 2012 London Paralympic Games, but these athletes simply went out to London and delivered for their country with a lot of heart.
Following such a performance, many were left wondering if the athletes at the Paralympics could have delivered a much better show if they had the support from the bodies concerned.
Thani Juma Berregad, Vice-Chairman of the UAE Paralympics Committee and Chairman of the Dubai Club for Special Sports, was one of those who believed that the haul could have been much bigger.
“We always expected our athletes to bring home the medals and make our country proud on the global stage. What we now need is support from society at the community level so that our athletes can be inspired to do much better in future,” the top official told Gulf News soon after the Games.
“With a bare minimum budget we have managed to achieve such big results for the UAE. Just imagine if we were to get more support — our athletes could have done much better in the medals table,” he added.
Berregad’s plea is plain and simple: he wants the leaders and the community to get involved with Paralympic athletes right from the grassroots level.
“We have proved that our athletes are right up there with their performances in London. All they now need is understanding and support to ensure they can do even better in the future,” the official noted.
Majid Al Usaimi, the UAE Chef de Mission at the 2012 London Paralympics, went a step forward and wondered how good the performances could have been had the athletes got the same sort of support as the able-bodied athletes.
“The performances of our athletes in London are adequate proof that we can compete with the best. All we need now is the backing from the government and more importantly, from the communities we operate in,” Al Usaimi said.
“For us, this is only the beginning. Should we get the required support, I am confident the UAE can be one of the major performers on the world stage is the future,” he added.