In the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak and the growing number of cases in Japan, there were fears that the Olympic Games would be postponed indefinitely; these fears turned to panic in the case of the Paralympic Games, with many paralympians believing that their games would definitely be cancelled owing to a history of systematic discrimination against the differently-abled. However, in an unexpected shimmer of hope, the world did not fail these champions; the number of cases went down, precautionary measures were put into action, and Tokyo delivered on its promise—a date was set.
After a year of uncertainty and postponements, finally, the Paralympic Games returned to the world in Tokyo on August 24th to September 6th, bringing a sigh of relief to more than 4,000 Paralympians.
Arab paralympians are no small demographic in this major event; in fact, they often surpass their Olympian counterparts. Of the 163 countries taking part in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, only 17 are Arab. All are determined to return home clad in gold. Here are the stories of the ones who made it.
Winning the bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, this young judoka was quite prepared for her run at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, winning the 52-kg final and returning home with a much-deserved gold medal.
31-year-old Hocine Bettir, has been participating internationally ever since he took on powerlifting in 2004. The Algerian champion has been to the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games; however, because of the pressure he was under, he failed his three attempts. Today, August 27th, Bettir redeems himself, crowning his achievements by winning his first-ever Olympic bronze medal.
A bittersweet moment awaited Sherif Osman at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after his loss against the 22-year-old Qi Yongkai of China. Up until then, Osman has won a gold medal at every event ever since his debut at Beijing 2008. The three-time gold medalist was injured earlier this year, and only had one month to train before Japan.
“It is very difficult and a big challenge to compete when weeks before you were recovering from an injury, when you were supposed to be training hard. I came, I competed, I fought hard. That is why this medal is so special and gives me strength to try again to win gold at Paris 2024,” he stated.
This is not Ahmed’s first rodeo; the international Paralympic powerlifter has participated in the 2016 Paralympic Games going home with the silver medal in the women’s 50 kg event. This year, the champion proves herself once more, winning her second silver medal at the same event.
The Ammani champion, Omar Qarada, celebrated his gold at the Tokyo International Forum on Thursday morning along with the whole of Jordan. The 40-year-old Paralympian lifted 173 kg on his third attempt breaking the previous record set by Rio 2016 champion Le Van Cong from Vietnam and winning the first gold medal in the 49 kg powerlifting event.
Tlili has been winning gold for Tunisia ever since her first international debut in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. She has and continued to dominate the shot put F41 and the discus throw F40 events, winning a total of five gold medals.
Ahmed Ben Moslah
26-year-old Ahmed Ben Moslah of Tunisia, has won his first-ever silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games in the men’s shot put F37 event.