Emirati sprint sensation Hamda Al Hosani takes gold

By Sheena Amos

ABU DHABI 20 March 2018: Emirati sprinter Hamda Al Hosani won gold in the 100-meter race, securing her status as one of the world’s most successful Special Olympics sprinters.

The 29-year-old’s victory was hard-won as she was chased all of the way by Bahraini athlete Aysha Alsubei who finished a close second.

The result means the two athletes have swapped places on the winners’ podium after Aysha won Sunday’s 200m race and Hamda took the silver.

Hamda’s two medals at this week’s Special Olympics IX Mena Games 2018 in Abu Dhabi takes her overall international medal count to an impressive 17 and makes her a favorite for even more on-track success later in the week and in next year’s World Games in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m now looking forward to the 4x100m meter relay race on Tuesday,” says Hamda.

Her mother, Zaafaran, says she was delighted that her daughter was back to her winning ways.

“Since 2008 Hamda has collected gold medals in many of the races she enters. We had a small hiccup on Sunday but managed to get the silver, and we are very happy today to go back to our winning streak and take first place in the 100 metres,” says Zaafaran.

“Hamda and I share every moment together, happy and sad, and we are proud of today’s win. Racing against the Bahrain team, the winner doesn’t matter — it’s a win for the Gulf.”

Hamda’s success on the track comes down to her deep love of sports and running. “I enjoy running because I don’t like sitting still and I’m very active,” says the athlete who trains for two hours a day.

“That’s what I love about running. If I sit down for a long period of time I feel like my legs are hurting because I just want to run.”

“My favorite event was the LA Games in 2015 where I won a gold medal, there were 180 countries participating. My fastest time is 14 seconds for 100m in Tunisia. In LA I got 15 seconds for the 100m, which was my second best race,” says Hamda.

Hamda credits her mother with helping her to discover and develop her talent for athletics.

“When I stopped going to school I stayed at home for a long time. My mother encouraged me to start running and encouraged me to join the Special Olympics UAE team. I joined a number of different teams and tried different sports but now I focus on sprinting,” says Hamda.

“I’d like to encourage everyone with intellectual disabilities (ID) to look out for what they’re interested in and to do more activities that boost their confidence. I have a friend who played on the basketball team and I encouraged her to join the sprinting team.”

Hamda hopes her continued success on the track will help to change how people with ID are viewed by society.

“In the Middle East people look at ID as a bad thing but I want to change that negative perception.”

Zaafaran says sports and the Special Olympics have helped to change her daughter’s life for the better.

“It has given Hamda a lot of confidence and allowed her to meet new people and forge friendships with people from all over the world. I knew she enjoyed running so I encouraged her to join the Special Olympics in order to pursue her love for the sport,” says Zaafaran.

“Hamda is now a much stronger person than ever. She has had the opportunity to travel to so many different countries thanks to the Special Olympics.”

Zaafaran’s advice to families who have a child with ID is a simple one: help them to integrate into society, help them to make friends, encourage them to take up sports and, most importantly, be involved every step of the way. By doing this both the child and the parent will flourish.

“My message to every parent with a kid with ID is to take part in Special Olympics. There’s usually parents’ meetings and get togethers where I notice a few parents. Kids with ID really need their parents’ support in order to succeed,” she says.

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.