Based on the choices of our Sport360 writers, we’ve whittled down the region’s top male sportsmen of 2016 to this shortlist.
They include one footballer, the rest made up of Olympian and Paralympian heroes who took the Rio Games by storm this summer.
Their fate is now in your hands and you can vote for your Regional Sportsman of the Year by voting in our poll both at the top and bottom of this page.
We’ll also be revealing our picks for regional sportswoman on Tuesday and then on Wednesday, the year’s best teams.
Don’t forget you can also still vote in the three international categories, so go to www.sport360.com/awards to vote for all your favourite athletes and teams of 2016.
A continual criticism of the ridiculously-talented Al Ain playmaker, and one that will always be applied to players in his position, is that for all his brilliance, his inconsistency means that a team’s overall performance will always depend too much on whether he managed to turn up or not.
This year offered further evidence of that… but more often that not, Omar had the UAE and Al Ain humming. ‘Amoory’ fulfilled his destiny by, finally, being named 2016 AFC Player of the Year. This prestigious individual title followed a run of eight man-of-the-match awards in 14 games as the Boss fell to a painful defeat to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the AFC Champions League final.
This near miss, in which he failed to shine, was also repeated in the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf League. But a lack of silverware does not take away from the technician’s sustained brilliance.
MOHAMMED KHAMIS KHALAF
Paralympians competing in itself is a triumph over adversity but in Khalaf’s case he had an extra burden to carry in Rio as he entered the competition in September with a niggling shoulder injury. As bad as it gets for a powerlifter.
But in his fifth Games, the 46-year-old delivered probably the best performance of his career to win his second Paralympic gold. Not only was it because of the injury and his advancing years but also because he was up against Brazilian Evanio Da Silva and a fervent home crown in the final.
Khalaf put that to one side, while showing plenty of his experience, to lift 220kg – 10kg more than Da Silva – and take top prize. And within hours of wearing that medal around his neck he was already dreaming of competing at Tokyo 2020, where he will be 50.
FEHAD AL DEEHANI
It was a bittersweet triumph for the Kuwaiti shooter at Rio, but a triumph nonetheless as he made history by becoming the first independent athlete to win a gold medal. With Kuwait suspended from international competition due to government interference in sport, army officer Al Deehani was shooting under the IOC flag in his sixth Games.
A proud military man he had caused something of a stir in the build-up to the Olympics having refused to carry the IOC flag in the opening ceremony due to his own national pride.
Whether or not Kuwait’s exile had fuelled his determination is unclear but he produced a brilliant performance in the final of 10m rifle, overcoming Italy’s Marco Innocenti to better the two bronze medals he won at Sydney in 2000 and London 2012.
Tunisia’s Walid Ktila has been the dominant force in the T34 category of wheelchair racing over the last four years. Twice he had denied Hammadi at London 2012, winning gold in the 100m and 200m as the Emirati had to settle for a silver and a bronze.
He’s also an eight-time world champion – from 100m up to 800m – which meant he entered Rio 2016 as an overwhelming favourite to do the double-double. After a disappointing fourth in the 100m final, Hammadi’s confidence must have been wavering as he lined up at the start of the T34 800m alongside Ktila, but he upset the odds to end the Tunisian’s reign and carve his own slice of Paralympic history.
In the final of the T34 800m he powered his way to a new Paralympic record of 1 minute, 40.24 seconds to win the UAE’s second gold medal of the games, less than 24 hours after Mohammed Khamis Khalaf had taken the first in powerlifting.
The very best athletes are often capable of producing moments of unbelievable composure when extreme pressure is placed upon him. But to exhibit such an ability, at the age of 20, in your first Olympic final is truly impressive.
The Jordanian was a huge underdog in the final of the men’s -68kg Taekwondo contest as he came up against Alexey Denisenko of Russia. Abughaush kicked his way to an impressive 10-5 early lead with a spectuclar show of high-kicking before Denisenko attempted to counter with his own combos.
You would have forgiven the 20-year-old to get flustered and try to take the Russian on toe-to-toe, leaving himself exposed to more attacks and giving his opponent some cheap points. But in a moment of considerable intelligence, Abughaush elected instead to make a run for it… literally, making a dash towards the edge of the mat, leaving Denisenko out of time.
He lost a point in the process but such was his lead it didn’t matter and the Gold – Jordan’s first ever – was his.
It wasn’t quite the colour he wanted, but the Qatari high-jumper still made history in Rio by winning the country’s first ever Olympic silver medal. Before Brazil, Qatar had four bronze medals to its name – one of which had been won by Barshim – but he added a new metal to the collection with a jump of 2.36m.
His feat earned an immediate phone call of congratulations from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, only emphasising his achievement.
At 25, Barshim knows he has at least one more Games in him and with this experience he can go for gold once more at Tokyo 2020.
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