Al Hammadi, Khamis lead UAE's challenge at Tokyo Paralympics
The pandemic-delayed Paralympics begin in Tokyo today
Middle-distance Paralympic champion Mohammed Al Hammadi and powerlifting legend Khalaf Mohammed Khamis will lead UAE’s challenge at the Tokyo Paralympics.
The pandemic-delayed Paralympics begin in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Al Hammadi, who won a bronze and a silver at the 2012 London Games before clinching the gold in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, will be in action on August 29.
The other members of the team are Alzeyoudi Mozah (powerlifting), Alktebi Noura (athletics), Nawad Ahmed (athletics), Alzeyoudi Maryam (athletics), Aljneibi Sara (athletics), Alaryani Abdulla Sultan (shooting), Almehairi Ayesha (shooting), Alnuaimi Saif, (shooting), Alaryani Abdulla Saif (shooting) and Almansoori Ahmad (para-cycling).
The 12-member UAE team will be hoping to better their Rio record in Tokyo, having won two gold, four silver and one bronze in 2016.
Al Hammadi warmed up for the Tokyo Games at the 12th Fazza International Championships – Dubai 2021 World Para Athletics Grand Prix – with a silver medal at the men’s 100m T34 Final.
“The year 2020 had been very difficult for athletes, we could not train much. Thankfully, Dubai started Para Athletics season and it is important for us to perform in our home championships,” Al Hammadi had said after winning the silver medal at the Dubai 2021 World Para Athletics Grand Prix in February.
UAE’s other bright medal prospect is Khalaf Mohammed Khamis, the Paralympic powerlifting legend of the country.
This will be Khamis’s third Paralympics in his trophy-laden career, having won gold at the 2004 Athens Games and the 2016 Rio Games. Khamis also won a silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.
“In the last few months, I have worked really hard and raring to compete. I have also lost several kilos and feel fitter and stronger,” said the 51-year-old Khamis.
Meanwhile, Japan is sending a record number of athletes to the Paralympics aiming not only for gold medals but also to build a more inclusive society, according to top team official Miki Matheson.
A gold medallist herself at the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Nagano, Matheson serves as one of three deputy chiefs of the Japan team and has high hopes for the Tokyo Games.
“The success of the Paralympics is not just whether athletes hit the mark or win a lot of medals,” Matheson said.
The Paralympics won’t succeed if we can’t feel that (people with disabilities) can go out more comfortably and that people around them can change their way of thinking because of the Paralympics,” she added.
The top sporting event for athletes with disabilities opens on Tuesday after a year-long pandemic delay.
But with virus cases hitting fresh records in Japan, the health situation is weighing on organisers and participants alike.
During the Tokyo Olympics, Japan won a record 27 golds, which the nation’s Olympic Committee says helped build public support for the Games despite the pandemic. (with inputs from AFP)
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