UAE Oly 1
The UAE won 73 medals at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 Image Credit: WAM

ABU DHABI: The UAE has won 73 medals at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023, with 18 gold medals, 22 silver medals, and 33 bronze medals. The UAE participated at the Games, held from June 17 to 25, with the largest delegation from the Middle East and North Africa region, comprising 167 individuals, including 72 athletes of determination with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and 31 unified partners, competed in 20 different sports.

UAE athletes made a strong start on day one, securing multiple medals, including a gold in gymnastics. The next gold medals were delivered by athletes Ghanem Al Memari and Nejood Binhidarah in roller skating. Judo player, Roudha Al Ahbabi, won her first bronze in the 100-kilogram category, after intensive training under the supervision of her Japanese coach, Koki Uchida. Zayed Al Kaabi, who had his first World Games participation in Berlin, won bronze in tennis.

Medals galore

Veteran swimmer Omar Al Shami secured first place and won the 200-metre freestyle gold medal, and Alia Al Muhairi won first place in the 25-metre freestyle event. Four other bronze medals were won by UAE swimmers across various events and powerlifting athletes also secured two bronze medals.

Asma Ali won gold and Hareb Anbar won bronze in athletics. In roller skating, Sayah Al Habash won another gold medal, and Nejood Binhidarah finished fourth. In cycling, two athletes won two silvers and two bronzes. In equestrian sports, Mahra Al Kaabi came second and Mahmoud Jaroor, won a silver medal in bocce.

UAE Oly2
The UAE women's volleyball team members who won gold in Berlin. Image Credit: WAM

Remarkable success

Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of Community Development and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Special Olympics UAE, said, “Special Olympics UAE athletes concluded their participation at the Berlin Games 2023 with an impressive medal tally that positions Special Olympics UAE as not only the largest delegation, but also the highest achieving amongst the Mena region.

“This remarkable success is the result of their hard work and preparations over the many months that preceded the games. We are proud to dedicate this success to President His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foremost supporter of People of Determination and their inclusion in society.

"I also congratulate the athletes, their families, their coaches and all the support teams, and everyone who has contributed to this tremendous success, including the official team sponsor, Adnoc Group, and all strategic partners, and most importantly, Sheikha Maryam Bint Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Honorary Chair of Special Olympics UAE, for spearheading the program with exemplary vision,” Al Mazrui added.

Great support

Talal Al Hashemi, National Director, Special Olympics UAE, and Head of the UAE delegation at the Special Olympics World Games, said, “Our athletes did us proud in Berlin and it was heartwarming to see the entire nation come forward and support them. I extend my gratitude to the official team sponsor, Adnoc Group, and to everyone who supported and encouraged our athletes, including the coaches, medics and delegation management staff, and the volunteers who were with us every step of the way.

"Our appreciation also goes to the UAE Embassy in Germany and Ambassador Ahmad Al Attar and members of the UAE Mission for their generosity and hospitality that were deeply felt from the first moment we arrived in Berlin and had a great impact on morale. Finally, special thanks to the families of the athletes who travelled to Germany to encourage our sons and daughters.”

Strong presence

Unified Partners had a strong presence throughout the World Games. In bowling, the UAE unified team won a silver medal and the men’s doubles team won another silver medal, while the women’s doubles team won a bronze medal. In tennis, the women’s unified doubles team won a silver medal. In badminton, athletes Zakeya Al Maazmi and Hassan Al Balooshi won the gold medal, and the unified golf team won the silver medal.

In team competitions, the unified beach volleyball team (men) won the gold medal, and the unified volleyball team (women) won the silver after a strong performance against India. The unified basketball team (men) won the gold medal, after an upbeat match against China.

Founding member

On the sidelines of the games, the UAE became a founding member of the International Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion, a pioneering multilateral effort to support people with intellectual disabilities. Coalition members committed to supporting the expansion of inclusive sports and education opportunities to over 2 million young people in more than 150,000 schools and scaling Special Olympics programming to 180 nations.

Additionally, the Global Athlete Congress was held, where 60 global projects were presented. The Middle East and North Africa region participated in its activities with a presentation of 10 projects from the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Tunisia, and Kuwait. The project presented by the UAE focused on establishing unified clubs that include people of determination and their peers in 20 schools.