Athlete’s mother, Umm Saleh, says Special Olympics has helped to boost her son’s self-confidence around others as well as his enthusiasm for sport

19 March 2018, Abu Dhabi: Umm Saleh fills with pride each time her son rolls a bowling ball to record another game-winning strike.

Saleh Al Marri dominates the lanes wherever he plays. The 24-year-old Emirati is a bowling sensation with a remarkable record of victories and an impressive tally of strikes.

But what is even more impressive is the change he has undergone since he found his love of the sport and began competing on the world stage at the Special Olympics, says Umm Saleh.

“The Special Olympics has affected various aspects of Saleh’s life and he has become more enthusiastic and self-confident.

"Because the championship is taking place here in Abu Dhabi he wants to be in first place among the people of his country.”

On Sunday, the opening day of the Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 in Abu Dhabi, Saleh came in first place in the 9th division of the traditional singles bowling competition played at Zayed Sports City, winning yet another gold to add to his growing collection.

Saleh first started playing the sport in 2010. A year later he competed in his first Special Olympics in Athens, Greece, where he won two gold medals.

He followed this up with two golds in Egypt and victory in the World Championship in the USA in 2014, says Umm Saleh.

"Now he wants to continue making achievements,” says the athlete’s mother, adding that her son’s sporting success is another example of the passion and determination he demonstrates to his family each day.

“He is smart, beloved and distinguished among his friends, family and all the people.”

As a youngster Saleh spent two years as a student at Al Noor Special Needs Center in Abu Dhabi.

He then enrolled at the Zayed Organization, which had a tremendous impact on his development, says Umm Saleh.

“I remember once he was in Germany for medical treatment. He went out with his brothers to play bowling and was interacting with the German people and all the people there.

“Saleh has always relied upon himself. One time he felt sick and went to the doctor with the driver by himself.

“He cares a lot about his family and they treat him as they would any person of his age. He is not dealt with in a special way. At home he has all the support of his brothers and his father and feels nothing less than them.”

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 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.

- ENDS -

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.