Athletes with determination win silver and gold medals alongside able-bodied colleagues in unified couples table tennis teams

19 March 2018, Abu Dhabi: Emirati athletes with determination and their able-bodied col-leagues won silver and bronze medals in a double victory for the UAE’s unified table tennis couples teams.

The teams, which feature sportsmen with and without intellectual disabilities (ID), were presented with their medals after taking second and third place in the unified couples cate-gory on day two of the Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 in Abu Dhabi.

All the athletes proudly dedicated their wins to the UAE’s leadership and thanked them for organizing the major international sporting event taking place in the capital. They are now looking forward to even greater success at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

Khaled Al Shahi, who has ID, won the silver medal with his able-bodied colleague, Nawaf Al Kaabi, while ID athlete Mohammed Almas was presented with bronze alongside his team-mate, Yousef Al Kaabi.

Khaled said: “I am very proud that I took second place in this category and I dedicate this win to our UAE leaders. I am looking forward to getting the first place in the World Games 2019.”

His teammate, Nawaf, said: “Our participation in the Special Olympics Games has prepared us for the World Games happening in 2019.

“It is a good start for the Year of Zayed and we are very happy and proud to be part of such a great sporting event.”

Mohammed said he felt “happy and proud” at securing third place in is now looking forward to the World Games next year.

Yousef echoed his colleague’s joy at taking home a medal. “I am very happy that I am part of this amazing sporting event,” he said.

“I got third place in the couple category and I am looking forward to participating in the World Games and getting the first place.”

The UAE’s table tennis coach, Omar Ali, said the silver and bronze medals were a “great ac-complishment for the UAE and Abu Dhabi”.

“Special Olympics Abu Dhabi is a preparation for the World Games 2019,” said Mr Ali: “I would like to thank the UAE’s leaders for their full support for people with determination.

“People with determination have given their all in the MENA games and I thank all the or-ganizers for a brilliant job for making this event a success in all aspects.

“The UAE team will work even harder and prepare itself for the World Games 2019 and get the best results possible.”

Speaking after the UAE’s victory over Egypt, Emirati basketball player Talal Noufan Arekat said he was excited to be representing his country on the court.

“The Games have been the best experience ever. I’ve really enjoyed playing with my team-mates against players from all over the world.

“The games have been tough. Our match against Egypt was very tight, but we won in the end.”

Talal, who trained with the UAE basketball squad at a camp in Al Ain before the start of the competition, said all of the teams taking part in the Games have shown high levels of skills.

“There have been some tough games. All of the teams are very good and have some good players,” he said. “We have performed well as a team and I even scored 22 points in a game so I’m very happy. I hope we can go all the way and win the gold.”

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 determi-nation 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 H.H. 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.

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About the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi (AD2019)
Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, scheduled for March 8-22, will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world, with 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing more than 170 countries. The World Games will be an unprecedented display of the spirit, joy, courage and skill that are hallmarks of Special Olympics movement. The largest single event ever held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the first Special Olympics World Games in the Middle East and North Africa, the World Games features 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports in venues throughout Abu Dhabi. The spectacular Opening Ceremony on March 14 is expected to attract 45,000 spectators while being viewed by millions worldwide via global broadcast partners ESPN and Abu Dhabi Media.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the 2019 World Games will be the most unified Special Olympics competition in history, with inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of the event. The Games are the most visible component of a planned series of initiatives by Abu Dhabi and the UAE to expand opportunity for people with disabilities, and to promote inclusion and understanding throughout the emirate, nation, and region. Plans for operation of the World Games include leaving a legacy of improved health, education, and inclusion that will benefit the UAE long after the event is over.