UAE champions ‘determination’ tag for Special Olympians

A player from the UAE takes a shot on goal during their handball match against Oman during the 9th Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi on March 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2018
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UAE champions ‘determination’ tag for Special Olympians

ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates, slated to become the first Arab country to host the Special Olympics in 2019, is championing an alternative label for those with special needs: “People of Determination.”
Arab athletes used to being called “special needs” were surprised and excited this week to see welcome signs with the new label at the 9th Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Games in Abu Dhabi.
The term, seen everywhere from handicapped accessible boardwalks to the Abu Dhabi exhibition center, is one the UAE hopes will catch on beyond its borders.
Matar Saeed Al-Naimi, president of the health committee for the 2018 MENA competition, says the games also offer a venue to educate local society.
Groups of Emirati elementary school age children were a fixture at the MENA games, brought in with their teachers to attend various sports events.
“They are still young and they are the future, so it is very important for the UAE to teach this generation who are the ‘people of determination’ and what they are capable of doing,” Naimi told AFP.
“The goal is a united society,” he said.
On Tuesday, the final day of competitions, a basketball match between Iraq and Syria ended with tears, cheers and finally a group photograph.
“I’m happy, very happy. I don’t know how to describe it,” said Naim Asmar, a member of the victorious Syrian basketball team.
Asked whether he preferred they be labelled as special needs or as people of determination, the athlete responded unequivocally.
“People of determination,” he said over and over.
“It means we have willpower! We might even have more than regular people,” he said pointedly.
The team coach, Yasser Al-Yassine, was also thrilled.
“This term is like a push for them — they understand what it means. It’s very motivating. It says, ‘I am a person of determination, so let’s go! I will do, I will train, I will play. If I can’t play, I’ll at least participate.
“It’s a wonderful concept,” said Yassine, whose team was participating in an international competition for the first time in six years.


Syria’s team coach said his players — three from Damascus, three from Aleppo and two from Homs — face challenges in society even as the country’s war has wound down in their own cities.
The confidence they gain at regional competitions and local games is hard won — and easily lost.
“There’s society, the school, the neighborhood — the streets. So maybe I have them once, twice or three times a week for an hour and a half. All the confidence we built in an hour and a half can be destroyed in five minutes,” said Yassine.
“They need to have each other’s backs.”
While the men’s teams from Syria and Iraq shook hands, women’s teams from Pakistan and Algeria faced off on the opposite court.
Kamilia Nihad Metidji, a 26-year-old volunteer with the Algerian team, said the “people of determination” label had surprised her.
“I was very happy that they call them this because I find that — with this word — there is no difference between us and them; between the healthy and the handicap-,” she said, stopping short to correct the terminology:
“The people of determination,” she continued. “It gives them self-worth; it’s super. It means they don’t have to feel different.”
Metidji said she volunteered with the special needs athletes because she wanted them to “feel like there’s no difference between us.”
“I want to give them courage: to show them they can accomplish something; they can win games, they can win medals — they can do everything we do.”


Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

Updated 18 January 2019
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Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

  • Sharapova dumps out defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.
  • Rafa and Roger brush aside young guns in straight sets victories.

LONDON: It is coming up to the end of the first week of the Australian Open, so we thought we would take a look and see how some of the big names fared on day five of the year’s first Grand Slam.

MARIA SHARAPOVA

Maria Sharapova warned she is in the sort of form to win the Australian Open after she dumped Carolina Wozniacki out with an impressive 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win. It was the Russian’s best win since her return from a drugs ban and she looked like a winner-in-waiting.
“I thought the level was quite high. I knew I’d get a tough match — she (Wozniacki) is the defending champion,” the five-time Slam champion said.
“I haven’t played many matches in the last year against top players so it was really rewarding to win that last set. These are the kinds of matches I train for.”



ROGER FEDERER

Ageless Roger Federer marked his 100th Rod Laver Arena match Friday by storming past Taylor Fritz, then looked forward to a “high quality” last-16 clash against another young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion continued his quest for a record seventh Australian Open title with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 third-round demolition of 21-year-old American Fritz in just 88 minutes of flawless tennis.
Next up is 14th seed Tsitsipas. And the 37-year-old Federer is looking forward to taking on the fiery young Greek, who is 17 years his junior.
Federer played him in the recent mixed teams Hopman Cup, winning a closely contested singles 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), and said he was impressed.
“I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis,” Federer said.
“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a Slam.”



RAFAEL NADAL

Rafael Nadal declared “everything is a step forward” after brutally brushing aside Alex de Minaur at the Australian Open Friday in just the Spaniard’s third match since the US Open.
The world No. 2 was in ominous form as he continued his quest for an 18th Grand Slam by punishing the Australian teenager in a third-round tennis masterclass 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“In general terms, everything is a step forward. So that’s positive news for me,” said the man who won the Aussie Open in 2009.
“I’m very happy for the victory against someone who had won seven matches in a row, winning a tournament.”
On his fitness Nadal added: “Probably 10 years ago it would have been difficult not playing much tennis in the build-up but now I have been in this situation many times with the injuries I have had.
“I have to deal with the ups and downs of my body but I try to enjoy any moment on the court.”



MARIN CILIC

The former US Open champions was made to work for his place in the last 16 as he struggled to beat Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Verdasco showed glimpses of the form that once made him a top-10 player and had a match point, one he frittered away with a double fault.
I was just slightly luckier in those crucial moments,” the sixth-seeded Cilic said.
“(It is) unbelievable. Emotions were up and down,” Cilic said.
“When I was down two sets to none, it was a big hill to climb.”
It’s the seventh time in Cilic’s career that he has emerged to win a match after dropping the opening two sets.



ANGELIQUE KERBER

Second seed Kerber received a gift ride into the Australian Open fourth round for her 31st birthday when she overpowered local wildcard Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0.
The Wimbledon champion swept world No. 240 Birrell aside in just 58 minutes to set up a last-16 clash with unseeded American Danielle Collins.
Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, said she was used to celebrating her birthday on the road at the season-opening Grand Slam.
“I think it’s the 12th time in a row,” she said. “I’m getting older but I have the best time here and I’ll never forget my birthdays here in Australia.”
Kerber reached the semifinals last year but lost to Simona Halep in a tight three-setter.