The year 2019, which is also dedicated to the virtue of tolerance, had a fairly auspicious start for athletes of determination.
As a lead up to the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Al Ain, the fourth largest city in the UAE is currently hosting the World Shooting Para Sport World Cup for the fourth year in a row.
The competition kicked off on February 16th at the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club.
Compared to previous years, this year’s competition achieved a new milestone, attracting 220 athletes from 47 countries, which is the highest ever seen in the competition so far.
According to the chairman of the local organizing committee, Abdullah Ismail Al Kamali, the event has already reached a state of perfection and their biggest goal for the next year would be to maintain the standards they are setting now.
“The World Shooting Para World Cup is being held in Al Ain for the fourth time now and we have already gathered a record-high number of participants from 47 countries and most of them are here for the first time,” he said, “So, this year has set the benchmark for us and our main goal is to maintain it for next year.”
“We also have an amazing contender for Tokyo 2020, his name is Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani and he is current world record holder. We are all looking forward to seeing him in the Olympics next year,” Mr. Al Kamali said when asked about a standout player in the UAE national team.
Out of the plethora of talented athletes who were vying to reach the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Sport360 caught up with four prominent shooters to learn more of their future plans.
Abdullah Saif Al Aryani is one of the Olympic hopefuls from the UAE national team who already has a world record to his name, which he secured at the 2019 IWAS (International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports) World Games in Sharjah.
The talented Emirati shooter was in good spirits at the shooting World Cup, speaking highly of his team and is positive that they can reach the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“I can’t vouch for the future, but we have a very strong team and we’ve got athletes like Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani, so I am sure we will fulfill the quota for Tokyo 2020 and we’ll compete in the Olympic games,” said Al Aryani.
26-year-old Natasha Hilltrop came from Germany to Al Ain for the third time to compete in the tournament and was thoroughly impressed by the facilities and the weather.
The young German shooter suffers from incomplete paraplegia and has set her eyes on the Tokyo Paralympic games in 2020, but considers laziness to be her biggest hurdle in her path to Olympic glory.
“I am kind of a lazy person,” Hilltrop said laughingly, “Sometimes I really have to force myself to go for training, besides that I don’t have many challenges in the sport.”
Two-time Paralympian, Luke Cain was also present at the Al Ain shooting World Cup for the third time and the avid Essendon supporter is looking to add Tokyo 2020 under his belt.
The 39-year-old was confined to a wheelchair following a horror on-field collision while playing football, which resulted in Cain breaking his neck when he was just 19, but the sport of shooting has given him numerous opportunities and a purpose.
“My accident was from football, I broke my neck playing football when I was 19 years of age, nearly 20 years from now, but shooting has given me opportunities to travel around the world and has given him a life to look forward to in a chair,” the Paralympian told Sport360.
Avni Lekhara was just 11 years old when she was involved in a car accident that injured her spinal cord resulting in paraplegia.
The now 17-year-old shooter possesses an iron will that has gotten her through some very tough times and helped find her passion in shooting.
Having already won a silver medal at the 2017 IPC Para Shooting World Cup in Dubai and now the teenager is competing in Al Ain for the second time around and the secret to her sporting success is to not take anything as a challenge.
“I don’t take anything as a challenge, because it’s your daily life and you get used to it. You just need to have faith in yourself and your capabilities, and little by little you will achieve everything you want,” said Lekhara.
The competition is currently ongoing and will end on 24th February, 2019.
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