Paralympics: Emiratis determined not to return home 'empty-handed'

Powerlifter Mohammed Khamis Khalaf, who has a good record at the Paralympic Games, will lead the contingent most likely to win medals.

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The UAE's 15-strong Paralympic team have high hopes of returning with medals from the London Games to compensate for the disappointment of the Olympic squad last month.

Mohammed Khamis Khalaf, the powerlifter, and Mohamed Hammadi, the wheelchair racer, will spearhead the challenge of the team of make and female athletes when competition begins on Thursday. The opening ceremony is tomorrow.

"Our athletes have been preparing for this event for the last four years and left for London more than three weeks ago to acclimatise and to put the final touches to their preparations," said Mohammed Abdullah, an official of the UAE Sports Federation for the Disabled.

"The Paralympics may have less glamour than the Olympic Games but these Emirati athletes have worked no less than any of our Olympians to reach the medal rounds. They are very determined and they will succeed."

Khalaf, was a gold medal winner at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens while Hamadi won two wheelchair racing golds and a silver medal at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, a qualifying event for the London Paralympics.

"They are of course our main medal prospects but the rest of the squad are not very far behind them," Abdullah said.

"Everyone in this squad has trained with the intentions of reaching the medal round. They have also participated in international events and achieved good results.

"We couldn't win any medals in the Olympics and these athletes are determined not to return empty-handed."

Khalaf, is making his third successive appearance in the Paralympics.

He also won a silver and two bronze medals in Athens, as well as another silver in Beijing in 2008.

In Sharjah last year Hammadi won four golds and a silver in the IWAS (International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport Federation) World Games.

The UAE Paralympic squad arrived in London on August 1 and have been training in Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire as they complete their preparations.

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