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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Emirati athlete killed in London had rebuilt life after army accident

Abdullah Hayayei died during training ahead of world championships

Emirati paralympic athlete Abdullah Hayayei competes in the men's shot put F34 final at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha. YouTube screengrab courtesy of paralympic.org
Emirati paralympic athlete Abdullah Hayayei competes in the men's shot put F34 final at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha. YouTube screengrab courtesy of paralympic.org

An Emirati Paralympian who died in a training accident had rebuilt his life after almost being killed on an armed forces exercise.

Abdullah Hayayei 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 Tuesday.

The 37-year-old had fought back from severe injuries suffered during an accident when he was a serviceman in 2001, in strikingly similar circumstances. The father-of-five continued to work for the UAE Armed Forces after he recovered and became an athlete, going on to represent his country.

“We are still in shock,” his youngest brother, Adam, 32, told The National.

“My mother hasn’t stopped crying. We recently lost our eldest brother and now Abdullah,” he said. “I can't explain or believe what has happened."He said his brother was left with partial movement of an arm and leg.

"In 2001, while training with the UAE Armed Forces, a metal rod fell on Abdullah's head, resulting in severe nerve damage and the disability he had until his death.

“They called me first that day and sixteen years later they called me to say my brother died, from the same cause.

“When the original accident happened he went into a coma for months and when he awoke, he couldn't move his right hand and hand difficulty walking on his left leg.

Hayayei made his Paralympic debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, finishing sixth in the javelin and seventh in shot put in the F34, a category for seated throws for athletes with impairments typical of conditions such as cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injury.

"So this feels unreal, that he died yesterday when a metal rod struck his head. We are distraught - my mother is old and isn't handling the news well. We didn't want to tell her but it was all over the media and we suddenly had people from all over the UAE offering us their condolences.”

Before travelling to London, Abdullah had just moved into a new home in Fujairah with his wife and children.

“He spent one night in that house. When they told me that he died, his son was with me. He had just been on the other line trying to reach him and complained his father wasn't answering."

Abdullah was one of eight siblings.

“He was not just a brother, he was everything to me. I’m not saying this because he was my brother, but you can ask anyone, he was the kindest, most generous and loving person ever," Adam added.

Coach Ayman Ibrahim of the UAE Paralympic team was among the eyewitnesses.

“Abdullah was going to pick up the discus when a gust of wind caused the cage to fall over. If proper safety measures were observed, this wouldn't have happened,” said Mr Ibrahim, who said he has submitted a report to investigators and the sport's organising committee.

Dr Abdel Razag bin Rasheed, head of the Khor Fakkan Sports Club for the Disabled, also knew the athlete and his family well.

“He was our star player and we were training him to be both a coach and a play. We were confident that we were going to win this year but with what happened, the morale of the UAE team is low. Abdullah was their friend, their role model, their brother and their leader.”

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