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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Emirati athlete Abdullah Hayayei 'had only spent one night in his new home' before death

Family pay tribute to father of five as funeral takes place following freak training accident in London.

Emirati athlete Abdullah Hayayei was laid to rest in his hometown of Qidfa on Wednesday. Antonie Robertson / The National
Emirati athlete Abdullah Hayayei was laid to rest in his hometown of Qidfa on Wednesday. Antonie Robertson / The National

Hundreds attended the funeral on Wednesday of Abdullah Hayayei, the Emirati athlete who died in a training accident in London last week.

People came from across the country to pay tribute to the beloved friend, relative and brother, who was a role model to many.

The 37-year-old father of five could not be revived after a metal discus cage fell onto his head as he practised for the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 on July 11.

The Paralympian had wanted to speak with his two-year-old daughter Maria on the day he died but she had been sleeping.

“His wife was the last one to contact him. She called him at 1.30pm on Tuesday and he was so excited about his participation and the atmosphere back there [in London],” said his elder sister, Mariam Hayayei, 46.

“He asked to speak to Maria but, unfortunately, she was sleeping, but his wife sent him a photo of Maria afterwards and that was the last photo he received from us before the incident.”

Hayayei was a kind, helpful and fun person who took care of his mother after his father's death in 1983.

“He was only three years old when our father passed away, and when he became older he took the responsibility of our mother and she relied on him for everything - he was her favourite son,” said Ms Hayayei.

“He spreads happiness wherever he goes. Playing sports was one of the main things that encouraged him to progress and improve as he found passion in it and was a helping hand to all his colleagues and managed to obtain many medals and trophies.”

Hayayei had spent only one night at his new home before travelling to London.

“I couldn’t believe that he was really dead until I saw his face today before the burial. I kept calling his number even after we knew about the accident, hoping he would pick up the phone,” added Ms Hayayei

“We lost our father, our big brother and now Abdullah. He will be in good hands and in a much better place; his elder son Mohammed believes it as much as we do and if you ask him about his father he will say, ‘My dad went to God, so he is in good hands’.”

Hayayei represented the UAE in the F34 class javelin and shot put at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, and was training at Newham Leisure Centre in London in preparation for the World Para Athletics Championships at the time of his death.

He had fought back from severe injuries suffered during an accident when he was a serviceman in 2001, in strikingly similar circumstances. While training with the Armed Forces, a metal rod fell on his head, resulting in severe nerve damage and the disability he had until his death.

Hayayei continued to work for the Armed Forces after he recovered and became an athlete, going on to represent his country.

Team-mate Mohammed Al Hammadi won the UAE’s first medals – a silver and bronze - at the World Para Athletics Championships on Monday and dedicated the medals to Hayayei.

He was laid to rest at Qidfa cemetery in his hometown on Wednesday after Al Dhuhr prayers.