Track finals and football wrapped up the final day of sporting events for the Special Olympics IX Mena Games in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
Bahrain won the 4x100 metre women’s relay, powered by sprinter Aysha Alsubei who ran the anchor leg.
UAE’s Hamda Al Hosani’s power spurt in the final leg secured silver for the UAE. The Tunisian team took the bronze.
In the men’s relay, Libya took gold, followed by Tunisia and the UAE.
Groups of school students were among the spectators in the athletic stands on the concluding day and their loud cheers, “UAE, UAE” rang across the field every time the host nation competed.
During the relay, athletes exchanged both the baton and encouraging pats on the back to spur the next sprinter on.
In the men’s 100 metre race, it was Seddine Al Tahir of Algeria who took home the gold.
Emirati long-distance runner Mariam Al Zaabi earned first place in the 1,500 metre race at New York University Abu Dhabi.
Despite the gruelling feat, Ms Al Zaabi said she was not tired after the race. “I was so excited with the crowd cheering me from the stands. I’m training all the time with my coach who helps me get faster,” she said.
There was some disappointment for the UAE in football with Bangladesh taking the game away with a goal scored by Mohammed Jewel.
The goal put Bangladesh ahead in the second half and the team won 1-0 during a fast-paced division one game.
The athletes with intellectual disabilities are divided into teams depending on their skill and abilities.
The Games, held at eight venues across Abu Dhabi, saw many first-time competitors in badminton.
Debutant Malik Jamal Najm from Iraq first picked up a racquet just eight months ago. “I feel so happy to be representing my country and getting a chance to interact with other champions.”
Majed Shallar from Syria participated for the first time in the Special Olympics this year.
“It feels great to be a part of such a large sporting event and meeting talented people,” he said.
Others like Roumaissa Zerouki from Algeria have participated before.
“I have been an active badminton player for the last 10 years. This is my second time at the Special Olympics,” Ms Zerouki said.
Canadian Charles Muir did not begin bowling to win or with an eye on the Special Olympics, he got into the sport to make friends.
Mr Muir said he was tired of being left at home while his sister went out and so the local bowling alley became his favourite spot.
A member of the Canadian bowling team invited to the Special Olympics IX Mena Games, Mr Muir found his friend circle expanding with his interest in the sport.
“My sister would go out with her friends and I just sat at home doing nothing. I decided to make myself busy, so I started bowling,” said Mr Muir, an all-round athlete who also competes in hockey, basketball, football and baseball matches.
“Hockey is probably my favourite sport because I practice with my father and he used to take me with him when he was playing with his team,” he said.
A tour of the capital along with a taste of the cultural offerings of the UAE is lined up for the athletes on Wednesday.
The athletes will say farewell to each other and celebrate a well-fought competition during the closing ceremony scheduled for Thursday evening.