x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE gold medal winner lives up to Al Ain club's expectations

Ayed Ali Al Hababi, a former Paralympian and member of Al Ain Club for the Disabled along with Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani, says there was no doubt the UAE was going to claim victory.

Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani hits his target, a gold medal in the mixed R6-50m air rifle prone SH1 final round on Tuesday in the London Paralympics.
Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani hits his target, a gold medal in the mixed R6-50m air rifle prone SH1 final round on Tuesday in the London Paralympics.

When Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani won the UAE's first gold medal of the London Paralympics on Tuesday, there was at least one person who was not surprised.

For 36-year-old Ayed Ali Al Hababi, a former Paralympian and fellow member of Al Ain Club for the Disabled, there was no doubt the team was going to claim victory.

Speaking minutes before Al Aryani won gold for his performance in the R6-50m air rifle prone SH1 shooting event at London's Royal Artillery Barracks, Al Hababi, now an assistant coach at Al Ain Club, predicted a win.

"The Paralympics are only joined by champions," he said.

"I am watching, and I expect some medals. Some of the players have big capabilities - I expect gold and silver."

After keeping a close eye on Al Aryani throughout the competition, the end result was relatively easy to predict, said his friend.

For the physically disabled athletes of the UAE, each competition allows them to prove their skills on a global level.

"It's a good thing. The disabled athletes are equal to those without disabilities in that they can represent the country in any category," Al Hababi said.

"From 1995 until 2003, there had been no interest from the media or from the public. They [only] sought to entertain the disabled community.

"But they have proved that they can be champions."

The turning point came at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens when the weightlifter Mohammed Khamis Khalaf won the UAE Paralympic team its first gold.

Al Hababi said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, welcomed home the Emirati team.

"He honoured us and ordered the federation to give special attention to [disabled] athletes."

This gold medal in London on Tuesday, the second in UAE Paralympic history, also gives 21-year-old Rashid bin Matar Al Daheri, who aims to take part in the Paralympics as a wheelchair racer, further incentive to compete for a place in the UAE team for the 2016 games.

Al Daheri, who works as a phone operator and has trained six days a week for the past two years, did not make the final cut for London.

"I wasn't chosen, but I intend to take part in Rio," he said.

"The Paralympics are extremely important because they create competition among athletes and every athlete wants to participate."

A flurry of congratulatory messages for Al Aryani quickly appeared on social networking sites, including Twitter, after his win.

"Our Paralympics team brought the first gold to the UAE in the#London2012Paralympics! SO PROUD!" said Elham Al Arif, a Dubai resident.

Moments after Al Aryani's victory, Al Hababi spoke about the win.

"I knew he would get a gold medal. The entire team, the entire club, had expectations for him."

zalhassani@thenational.ae

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