UAE para archery team
UAE players at a training session ahead of the World Para Archery Championships, which begin on Tuesday. Image Credit: Courtesy: Yahya Essa

Dubai: Home-grown archers Gholam Rahiminia and Mohammed Alshehhi were equally thrilled and nervous as they prepare for the Dubai 2022 World Archery Para Championships, which will kick off with the qualification rounds on Tuesday.

Rahiminia and Alshehhi along with Habib Albaloushi, all competing in men’s compound open, complete the hosts’ team for the championships, which will have 223 para-archers (compound, recurve, wheelchair and visually impaired) from 40 countries vying for glory this week.

For both Rahiminia and Alshehhi, who trains at the Dubai Club for People of Determination, this will be their second major championships event after Beijing 2017 World Championships. They have been regular at the Fazza World Ranking Championships in Dubai.

“We are very excited and hoping to get a good result at the Championships here. We have trained hard for the last three months with a new coach and hope to shoot well this week,” said Rahiminia, who competed in Para Powerlifting between 1997 and 2012 and also represented UAE in Sydney 2000 Paralympics.

“Training and more training,” added the 49-year-old Rahiminia on the training regime with their new Latvian coach Elena for the last three months. “The body feels good and we are aiming to get scores of 680.”

Alshehhi, who was a Para athlete for four years before switching to archery, believes that they need to train more and take foreign exposure trips for better skills and technique.

Aiming for improved show

Meanwhile, their long-time coach Ali Rao Berenjian said his players will be aiming for improved performance, better scores and confidence.

“Playing against big stars here will definitely boost our players’ confidence, especially for Habib, who will take part in his first World Championships. Archery is relatively a new sport in UAE and the interest is on the rise to learn the sport in the country. There are also female players showing interest.”

Rao was also “optimistic” that UAE will soon have a Paralympian in Para Archery. “It’s just a matter of time when we have larger pool of players scoring good scores.”

The Dubai 2022 is the first championships where the two-archer doubles format rather than three-archer teams for single-gender competitions will be introduced. and the UAE players, like many others, were excited about the development.

Paralympic stars in action this week

Paralympic and Worlds medallists Czech Republic’s David Drahonínský and Bahattin Hekimoglu from Turkey (compound men-W1), Iran’s Rahimi Gholamreza and India’s Harvinder Singh (recurve men), Jessica Stretton (compound women) and Elisabetta Mijno (recurve women) are among the ones to watch out for during the week.

Defending champions Ben Thompson from USA (compound men), Singapore’s Nur Syahidah Alim (compound women), Ruben Vanhollebeke of Belgium (visually impaired) all have gathered here this week.

The Championships, which has been postponed owing to Covid 19 Pandemic last year, mark the first international para-archery event since the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Sixteen world champions in four categories (Compound Open, Recurve Open, W1 (M/W) and Visually Impaired) will be crowned in Dubai with the finals set to take place on February 25, 26 and 27.