LONDON // Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani won the UAE’s first gold medal at the London Paralympic Games on Tuesday and immediately dedicated it to the country’s rulers and its people.
“They have been so supportive and so patient, and this is the only way I can show my appreciation and repay them,” he said after winning the mixed R6-50m air rifle prone SH1 on Day 6 of the Games.
“I always thought I was in for a medal because of my experience and all the hard work. But I wouldn’t have achieved what I achieved if not for the support and the opportunities provided to me.
“It’s amazing. It’s a dream – the first time I have won gold and the first gold medal for UAE in this competition.
“It’s everything for me.”
Al Aryani missed qualifying for the final at the Paralympics at Beijing in 2008 by a single place.
“From the day I finished the last Paralympic Games I started immediately planning for this one. I was very focused on London.”
He totalled 694.8 points to claim a tense victory over Juan Antonio Reinaldo (694.6) of Spain and Matthew Skelhon (693.2) of Great Britain. The Emirati also led the qualifying round with a score of 592 from a field of 48.
Al Aryani became only the second Emirati to win a Paralympic gold, after Mohammed Khamis Khalaf won a weightlifting gold at the 2004 Athens Games.
Khalaf, who won a silver four years later in Beijing, was to go in to action later last night in the 90kg category.
“It is indeed a very happy occasion in our camp and as for me it is a wonderful feeling to finally have the UAE flag up in London,” Al Aryani said.
"Until now it has been frustrating six days for us. We arrived in London almost a month before the competition. It has been the best preparation ahead of the Games, yet we failed to reach the medal rounds.
“It is not that anyone pointed a finger at our efforts but we felt frustrated that we couldn’t achieve the results we came here for. We have supported each other in the camp and they feel a huge load has been taken off their back with the medal I won.”
Al Aryani was a member of the UAE shooting team in 2000, but he was seriously injured in a car crash in 2001. He was left paralysed below the waist but returned to competition four years later as a disabled athlete.
“It is very painful to think of the past,” he said last week. “I must get on with my life and this is another opportunity. I am using my experience and I thank God that I am still able to do what I enjoy most.”
He had earlier reached the final in the R1-10m air rifle standing but finished seventh. He was ranked 23rd from a field of 44 in the mixed R3-10m air rifle prone the following day.
“I was pretty satisfied with those efforts and I was quite confident going in to my third competition,” he said.
“In shooting, the competition is very close. You need to hold your nerves, prepare well and have some good fortune besides being at your best on the day. And fortunately it was my day.”
Obaid Al Dahmani, the second Emirati in the event, finished 28th with a score of 579.
Al Aryani will try for a second medal at his final event on Wednesday, the R7-50m rifle 3 positions.
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