ABU DHABI, 18th March 2018 (WAM) - The first day of the Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 in Abu Dhabi saw medals awarded to outstanding athletes from across the region and beyond.
The opening day of competitions saw athletes from 32 countries presented with medals for outstanding achievements in 16 sports on the track, court and field.
Dignitaries and honored guests handed out gold, silver and bronze medals as well as participation medals to the delighted athletes as their friends, family and compatriots cheered and applauded.
The UAE topped the medals charts in cycling winning a total of 6 in a series of races held at the Yas Marina Circuit, including golds in divisions 2 and 4 of the men’s 5km time trial.
In the tennis, which was played at Zayed Sports City, Monaco beat the UAE 4-0 and 4-1. Monaco’s Christophe Matte expressed his happiness at achieving 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.
Another of the opening day’s tennis games saw Syria lose 6-2 to Tunisia over two games. The Syrian team coach said his player, Mohammed 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 8 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 Esmail 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 Soliman and Sherif Mohamed Abdelhamid Nada, and Jordanians Abdallah Alnahhas and Yousef Yousef all take home gold medals for winning their divisions.
"I loved being part of the Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018. 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 Esmail from Syria, a winners in one of the 30m straight line races, said: "I have been practicing 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 the powerlifting competition. The 16-year-old athlete won a silver medal for squat lifting 60kg in division F2.
The teenager said her family encouraged her to take up the sport. She trains regularly and credits the hard work she puts into her powerlifting with boosting her self-confidence.
In athletics, Egyptian Aya Salah Abdulrahman celebrated winning a gold medal in the 200 meters 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."
The Special Olympics IX MENA Games and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 are a part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 that highlights full integration of people of determination into everyday society. Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the most ‘unified’ games in history and promise to offer an inclusive experience for those with and without intellectual disabilities.
More than 1,000 athletes from 32 countries have travelled to Abu Dhabi to take part in MENA IX Games, which is the first major sporting event ahead of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Athletes are taking part in 16 sports across eight venues including ADNEC, Zayed Sports City, Yas Marina Circuit, NYUAD, Officer’s Club, Mubadala IPC Arena, Al Jazira Sports Club and Al Forsan Club.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will see the biggest humanitarian sporting event in the world coming to the Emirati Capital, marking its first debut in the history of the MENA region.