Two Emirati athletes will become the first in their sport to represent the UAE on a global stage at an upcoming international event that celebrates athletes with special needs.
Young golf player Saif Al Qubaisi and tennis ace Abdulla Al Mansouri will join the national team competing at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, set to be held in the capital in March.
Hosted every two years, the event brings together international athletes with special needs for competition in 24 categories, including powerlifting, sailing and gymnastics.
The next edition will be the first time the event has taken place in the MENA region, and over 7,000 athletes from around the world are expected to compete.
“It is truly phenomenal to be competing with athletes from all over the world,” smiled 12-year-old Abdulla in an interview at the announcement ceremony. “I’m really interested in playing in the World Games 2019 so I can get trophies and medals.”
For Abdulla’s mother Khawla Barley, who founded disability advocacy community group Goals UAE and created golf and tennis programmes for young adults with special needs, the upcoming Games represent an opportunity to cement a nationwide legacy for inclusion in sport.
“The thing that is significant about this is that the UAE has never had a Special Olympic golf or tennis team, so we have added two new sports to the list,” she explained. “What we hope is that even after the World Games, these teams will remain in place and grow, and that by having events in the community, we can make people aware that there are opportunities for their kids with special needs.
“What’s really important is what we do with this year, and what we do with this momentum to prepare for beyond that.”
To find out more about the Special Olympics World Games 2019, visit: specialolympics.org