After grabbing the UAE’s first medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, Mohamed Al Hammadi has shifted his focus to defending his 800m title.
The Emirati took bronze in 100m wheelchair T34 on Monday, behind Tunisian Walid Ktila - who won his third successive Paralympic sprint gold - and Australian Rheed McCracken at the Olympic stadium.
Ktila, who is also the world record holder, won the race in a Paralympic record time of 15.01 seconds. McCracken crossed the finish line in 15.37, followed by Al Hammadi in 15.66.
Ahmed Nawad, the 18-year-old understudy to Al Hammadi, recorded a personal best 15.99 to finish eighth in a field of nine.
Bronze in Tokyo was Al Hammadi’s fourth Paralympic gong after he won silver and bronze in the 200m and 100m respectively at London 2012, and gold in 800m at Rio 2016.
Al Hammadi is taking the same path as he did at Rio, but is now a step ahead of his performances five year ago as he prepares for Friday’s 800m qualifier followed by the final on Saturday.
“I have been preparing for the same two events as I did at Rio and this time I have done better with a podium finish in the 100m, which I believe is a good performance and it certainly has raised my confidence for the next race,” he said.
“It’s five years since I won at Rio but the field is almost the same. It’s familiar faces but I know five years can make lot of difference and lot of changes to an athlete.
“My preparations for Tokyo were affected because of the pandemic and I think it’s the same for others. Most of us spent more than a year without competitions and it’s so nice to be at Tokyo.
“Going by the 100m result, it has raised my confidence and I thought I did pretty well to take bronze. Walid is strong in the sprint and he’s always a tough one to beat along with Rheed in the 800m.”
Al Hammadi was fourth behind Ktila, McCracken and Finn Henry Manni in the 100m at Rio but turned it around when he won the 800m gold from the trio that finished ahead of him in the 100m dash.
“Saturday’s re-match will be an exciting contest,” Al Hammadi said of the re-match with Ktila, McCracken and Manni.
“We are close friends off the track but when racing we are all fiercely competitive. We have competed against each other a number of times. We have won against each other across various distances.
“Everyone here has come to win. I think we have all done our part to be in Tokyo. I managed to finish ahead of Walid and Rheed at Rio, and I hope I can do it again.”
McCracken revealed he had popped a rib about five days ago and had to battle through pain to put in a brave effort for the 100m silver.
“I feel really good about it. It’s something I’m really proud of,” he told the Seven Network.
“I go into all of them thinking this is going to be the year, and it was no different this year. I did everything, so I’m pretty happy with it. I’d take that any day, that’s for sure.”
Meanwhile, Emirati shooters Abdulla Sultan Al Aryani and Ayesha Al Mehaeiri failed to qualify in the men’s 10m air rifle standing and mixed 10m air rifle SH2 events, respectively.
Al Aryani, with a score of 601.2, came 18th from a field of 21 and Al Meheiri was 22nd out of 28 with a score of 622.