Saudi Women’s basketball team win gold in Special Olympics
Abu Dhabi: The whole team jumps in unison, celebrating the victory, with each athlete buzzing with joy as they excitedly embrace each other. It was a moment the Saudi Arabian women’s unified basketball team is unlikely to ever forget. The team has just clinched gold in its maiden appearance at Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.
Saudi women had never participated in the Special Olympics until now. However, in this edition a group of 21 women made history by becoming the first-ever female athletes from KSA to compete across various sports including Basketball, Bocce, track and field and bowling.
Saudi female athletes are finally getting the opportunity to participate in international events like their male counter parts.
And the female athletes at the Special Olympics did not disappoint. Apart from the basketball, Saudi women’s bocce team also won a silver medal with several individuals also picking up medals.
“It is fantastic that we got to participate, the athletes were delighted when they got the news of participation. As you saw they played really well and we knew they have the capability to beat any team,” head coach of SO Saudi Arabia’s female unified basketball team Raja Al-Hammouri told PTI. “It was a very good experience for them. They have continuously competed at the national level with each other but this the first time these female athletes have participated at the Special Olympics,” she added.
The team, which features five athletes with Down Syndrome, beat Ivory Coast 26-11 to claim the top honours.
The Special Olympics, the biggest international sports and humanitarian event, saw participation from a record number of female athletes. The Local Organising Committee played a key role in encouraging not only the participation of female athletes but also of coaches, volunteers and addition staff.
“Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi is leading by example when it comes to promoting female inclusion. More than half of the LOC staff are women and key female figures are helping to drive the Special Olympics movement towards its goals,” LOC Chief Strategy Officer, Tala Al Ramahi said.
“These World Games have welcomed a record-breaking number of female athletes. Almost 40 per cent of the athletes who have competed in sporting competitions over the last few days are women, with over 2,800 females taking to the playing field,” she added.
For this edition of the game the LOC introduced more sports for women and also increased the quota.
“There is an increase of female athletes from the last edition of the games. There are 129 female athletes in the Indian contingent. There were 89 in 2015. The organising committee has increased the quota for the female participants,” SO Bharat’s National Sports Director, Victor Vaz, said.