Spirit of camaraderie on final day of Special Olympics

By Rajive Singh

ABU DHABI 21 March 2018: After countless displays of heroics, sporting excellence and incredible achievements by individual athletes and teams, the Special Olympics IX Mena Games 2018 yesterday came to its thrilling, fun-packed end.

The last day of competition saw two divisional men’s basketball finals, with the UAE facing off against the KSA and Egypt taking to the court to play Chinese Taipei.

Each of the four teams, which were made up of athletes with determination alongside able-bodied colleagues, gave their all in two exciting and end to end games.

In a free-flowing match, the UAE and KSA players pushed each other to the limit until the final quarter when Saudi eventually outscored their Emirati hosts to win by 43 points to the UAE’s 33.


Saudi player Mohammad Mousa said he was delighted with his team’s victory in the final.

“We were thrilled to have made it to the final but to beat the UAE, which were one of the strongest teams in the competition, is something special. It was not an easy game as the UAE have great players.

“We are happy to be in Abu Dhabi and to able to play in the MENA games. The crowd was amazing and really supported both teams with songs and chants to encourage all of the player on each side to do their best. They made it so exciting. I would like to thank everyone who came to watch the game for their support.

“I’m looking forward to returning home to Saudi to tell everyone, my wife, my sons and my family, that I have won a gold medal at the Games.”

In the other final game, Egypt and Chinese Taipei matched each other basket for basket until the last seconds when the Asian team secured a narrow victory of 51 points to Egypt’s 49.

Heroics on Court

While the players performed heroics on the court, the crowds did their part to make the final day extra special with the stands packed full of spectators who sang songs of encouragement for both teams.

Thamer Al Khan was supporting the Emirati team but enthusiastically joined in the chants backing the KSA players.

“All of the fans wanted to make the final game extra special for the athletes. Even though the game was competitive and only one team could win, it was important for the players to feel the love and support of everyone who came to watch.

“By shouting chants and singing songs of encouragement, we as fans showed that we fully support both teams and that we truly appreciate the hard work and dedication they have shown throughout these Games.”

Emirati basketball player Mariam Al Mazouri played in the day’s women’s tournament. She described competing in the Special Olympics IX Mena Games 2018 in her home city of Abu Dhabi as “like playing in my own home”.

Amazing Games

“The Games have been amazing. I have loved every minute I played, especially in the games where we beat Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Algeria.

“Personally, I think I have played OK. There were games when I scored points and there were games where I could have scored more, but overall it has been wonderful.”

Mohammad Al Hajjar, who played for Syria’s basketball team, said he will remember the experience of playing in the UAE capital forever.

“I was really happy to be able to represent my country at the Special Olympics MENA games. This is my second Games and I’m really happy that we achieved some great wins.

“The whole team trained very hard for these games and we all played very well. I would like to thank the whole of the UAE for organizing these games and inviting all of the athletes to come and play here.”

Fan Support

Mohammad added that his teammates had been spurred on by huge support from not only their fellow Syrians, but also spectators from other countries.

“The crowds have been like a dream,” he said. “They supported all of us in every game we played and helped us to play better.”

In the finals of the powerlifting, Libya’s Ammar Al-Shatshat took home the gold after lifting a combined weight of 507.5kg in division M6 of the bench, deadlift and squat while Qatar’s Hamad Al Jaber took the silver for a combined lift of 412.5kg.

Emirati athletes Ahmed Al Honsani and Hamad Al Ali won 4th and 5th place respectively in division M6, with Ahmed lifting a total of 365kg and Hamad 330kg.

In the women’s competition division F3, Libya’s Monia Ezawi won gold for a combined lift in the bench, deadlift and squat of 262.5kg with Hanan Al Shehyari from the UAE winning silver for a total lift of 140kg. Her compatriot Roodha Al-Ahbabi won bronze with a 110kg combined lift.

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.