Hamda Ali Al Hosani being congratulated by her mother Zaafarana Ahmad Khamis after her 100-metre running success in the Mena Special Olympic Games in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Among the crowd present at the medal ceremony for the Mena Special Olympic Games was an excited Zaafarana Ahmad Khamis, mother of Hamda Ali Al Hosani, the UAE’s multiple medallist.

A mother of 11 children, Zaafarana was rooting for her dear Hamda, who had just clinched gold for the UAE in 100m sprint at New York University tracks on Monday. Behind the veil is a strong woman as without her support, Hamda wouldn’t have seen this day. “I’m extremely delighted with her achievement today. She has been winning gold from 2008 onwards. Yesterday, she won silver but today again she has won gold and I’m very happy for her,” said Zaafarana, who found out that daughter is a special child when she was just three months old. As she got older, her body started to give way and she even struggled to walk.

With her condition deteriorating, as doctors then were unaware of how to treat her, the family was forced to take her out of school after Grade VI.

“Hamda’s school told me they couldn’t educate her any longer so she stayed at home for two years and then joined Special Olympics when she was around 13—14 years old,” recalled Zaafarana, who has another daughter Mariam, younger to Hamda, with similar condition but has also found resolve in the sport of bowling at the Special Olympics.

“I have always encouraged both my daughters because I wanted them to be independent. They have also worked hard ever since they picked up sport and started participating in Special Olympics. Hamda has been winning laurels for the country for a while now and having travelled around the world has given her a lot of confidence,” says Zaafarana, whose advice to all the parents of children with special needs is to treat them with patience and to keep encouraging them.

“All that kids with intellectual disability really need is their parents’ support in order to succeed. Find out where the kid’s interests are and then support them in pursuing that,” says Zaafarana, giving Hamda a tight hug.

With the gold in 100m, Hamda also avenged her loss against Bahrain’s Aysha Al Subei in the 200m and was understandably delighted.

“It was too hot yesterday and hence I struggled. Today, I stayed in the shade for most of the time and only walked on to the track just before the event. It helped me in beating Aysha,” said Hamda, who has another opportunity to swell her medals tally when she gears for the 4x100m relay on Tuesday.

Being the face of UAE Special Olympics, Hamda is also well aware of the responsibility of her role in the society. “I know people look at us differently and I want to change that perception. Hopefully, laurels like these can inspire many special needs kids. We have to ensure that there is space and plenty of love and care for the special children. We all have to work towards that. Giving confidence and support is the least that one can do to start with,” says Hamda, before joining in the celebrations with her teammates.