x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

When there is more to the game than playing

Majid Abdulla Al Usaimi wants to not just spread the word but to give hope and inform the rest of the UAE that disabilities do not hold people down.

Many athletes taking part in the IWAS hope to emulate athletes such as Pavlos Mamalos of Greece, who competed in powerlifting at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Training for the IWAS starts Thursday.
Many athletes taking part in the IWAS hope to emulate athletes such as Pavlos Mamalos of Greece, who competed in powerlifting at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Training for the IWAS starts Thursday.

DUBAI // Majid Abdulla al Usaimi loved taking part in all manner of sports while he was growing up, but avenues for children like him were limited.

Wheelchair-bound, he did not come across many competitions for disabled youngsters.

To make things worse, a lack of public awareness would often force him to stay indoors for fear of non-acceptance.

"My parents did not push me to go outside," he said.

"You know why? Because the environment is not accessible for me. There are no ramps for us.

"On the other hand, the people are not ready for people like me. They are laughing because they don't know what disability is.

"So if we start with the students in schools, start our programmes in the media, after five years there will be no difference between both able and disabled people, like Europe now.

"I feel free more in Europe than here.

"When I go here, either the people are not trusting me, or the environment and buildings don't like me.

"They say, 'Don't come inside, I don't have a ramp for you, just go away.'

"I don't want to be carried around by my friends all the time. I would rather stay at home.

"And this is the reason why the disabled people or their parents don't want to go outside."

As the executive manager of the Dubai Club for Special Sports, al Usaimi is working hard to change perceptions, create more awareness and give disabled sportsmen more opportunities through different competitions.

A big part of that plan is the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport Federation's (IWAS) World Junior Games, to be held in Dubai from tomorrow until April 20.

The Games, being held under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, have attracted more than 220 athletes, both boys and girls, from 23 countries.

They will be competing for around 900 medals.

Competitions will be held in track and field (Under 16, U18, U20 and U23) at the Dubai Police Officers Club, powerlifting (U23) at Dubai Club for Special Sports and table tennis (U18 and U23) at Al Ahli club.

As hosts, the UAE, with 35 competitors, will boast the largest contingent of the Games, followed by Great Britain and Iran with 30 athletes.

The UAE won 18 medals at the last championship, in the Czech Republic, and are hoping to see a substantial increase in the tally this time around.

"We are really proud to host this event and it is a big challenge," al Usaimi said.

"When I was 16 or 17, we did not have any official competitions.

"I started in athletics in 1994.

"I also played table tennis in some Arab and Gulf competitions, but I had to play against professional athletes, who are much bigger than me.

"I was not competing against my equals, so it was not fair.

"But these days, there is a competition for them, teaching them the rules and these things.

"So I think the future will be better."

This is the first time the Games are being held outside Europe and al Usaimi, who is also the tournament director, believes it will serve as a motivation to disabled children in the country, and their parents, to take up a sport.

"We had only 12 athletes at the last Games in the Czech Republic. So now 35 athletes is reasonable for us, because we started very late with the juniors," he said.

"But others who are watching from their homes, or in disabled sports clubs or in the centres, they will see the opening ceremony, they will see the competition, and they will take a lot of ideas.

"I believe they will join one of the clubs near their homes.

"This tournament will really be an encouragement for them, for their parents, their families and the larger society as well."

arizvi@thenational.ae

What is IWAS?

The International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport Federation (IWAS) is the governing body for athletes with disability,
with 43 member countries from around the world.

It is the governing body for wheelchair fencing and different sports for athletes using wheelchairs and amputees, like athletics, cue sports, powerlifting, table tennis and lawn bowls.

At the Youth Games in Dubai, people with cerebral palsy will be allowed to participate in this competition for the first time.

The Schedule

Tomorrow until Saturday
Classification and training

Sunday
7pm Opening ceremony and 7.50pm athletics,
Dubai Police Officers Club

Monday
8.30am, Powerlifting
at Dubai Club for Special Sports
9am, Table Tennis at Al Ahli
5pm, athletics at Dubai Police Officers Club

Tuesday
8.30am, Powerlifting at Dubai Club for Special Sports
9am, Table Tennis at Al Ahli
5pm, athletics at Dubai Police Officers Club

April 20
5pm, athletics at Dubai Police Officers Club
7pm, closing ceremony at Dubai Police Officers Club