Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 July 2019

Sports fans urged to help cheer on Special Olympic athletes

Coaches call on relatives and the wider public to give the teams their full backing

A UAE Special Olympics coach has urged families and friends of competitors to get more involved in the Games and help cheer the squad on.

Nadia Messaadi said it was crucial teams felt supported by relatives as well as the wider public as they took up the challenge of competing.

Over the next five days, nearly 300 athletes from the UAE will take part in events ranging from swimming and gymnastics to football and volleyball.

And in an interview with The National, Ms Messaadi said seeing cheering crowds at each event was hugely important for the athletes’ morale.

“Psychologically it’s very important for them to actually see their family and the public support them,” Ms Messaadi said.

“It tells them ‘We are with you and we support the team.’ This is the most important thing - it motivates them.”

This year’s Special Olympics World Games is the first time the event has been staged in the Middle East and North Africa.

More than 7,500 athletes representing more than 190 nations have arrived in the country to take part in what has promised to be a global sporting spectacle.

The Games - a free event - run until March 21 in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The UAE’s squad is set to compete in all 24 sports being played.

“These athletes know if you love them,” said Samira Ouzmi, the team’s bowling coach.

“They are like our own children. We need to listen carefully to each one of them and we cry when they win.

“Sport changes their personality and makes them more confident. It makes them feel good to be part of something and show what they can do.

“We love them for their big heart so please join us and see them compete."

Ms Messaadi, the UAE’s athletics coach, said the level of excitement in the squad had been building since the dramatic opening ceremony on Thursday.

The team have been training hard in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi for the last two weeks and were now fully prepared for the days ahead.

Nada Al Mazrouei, one of the UAE team who competes in bowling, gave a big smile and a thumbs up when asked about how excited she was.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - March 17, 2019: An athlete competes in the 5km time trial during the cycling at the Special Olympics. Sunday the 17th of March 2019 Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - March 17, 2019: An athlete competes in the 5km time trial during the cycling at the Special Olympics. Sunday the 17th of March 2019 Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“It’s made a big difference to have the full team in one place as before they were training in different clubs in different emirates,” Ms Messaadi said.

“But now they have met each other and have come together as one; they are the UAE.

“[But] the athletes need support. [The public] are part of their community and our girls and boys need to see our interest not because they are special needs but because we are all part of the same country.

“They keep asking ‘Is my mother coming? Is she here?’ The parents have encouraged them to be in the Games and they want to see their parents are happy. Come and cheer them.”

Updated: March 17, 2019 06:39 PM

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