x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A champion spirit

Few star athletes can match the persistence and excellence shown by the disabled Emirati Thuraya Al Zaabi.

To excel, an athlete needs skill, energy and plenty of persistence. Every month brings news of individuals and teams, in elite-level sports around the world, who have parlayed those attributes into championship performances.

But in all that assemblage, we think few star athletes can match the example of persistence set by Thuraya Al Zaabi, an Emirati profiled today in the news pages of The National.

At age 29, when she was a competitor in basketball, cycling and athletics, Al Zaabi had a stroke. Permanently paralysed on her left side, she simply moved over to the expanding arena of Paralympics, where those with handicaps can experience the challenges of intense training, the nervy pleasure of an audience, the intensity of competition - and sometimes the thrill of victory.

Having competed in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, and winning gold in both javelin and shot put at the 2010 Asian Games, Al Zaabi, now 41, is competing today at the Asian Games in Qatar. Looking ahead, she is training in Sharjah in preparation for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London next summer.

Now that's persistence. In summoning up the mental fortitude to convert one type of sport activity into another, despite such a medical setback, she showed courage and determination which would shame many "regular" athletes. Good luck in Qatar, Thuraya. We'll be watching.