Breaking Barriers, Changing Perceptions

by BTM

Tue, 05 November 2019

Breaking Barriers

Para athletes have the ability to inspire and excite the world; they are people first and foremost and must be treated with respect and dignity.”

Ahead of the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships, Shaikh Mohamed bin Duaij Al Khalifa, president of the Bahrain Paralympic Committee (BPC), talks about the importance of sports in assimilating people with disability into mainstream society.

What are BPC’s main objectives and goals?
Our vision is to stimulate and encourage the growth of the Paralympic sports movement in the Kingdom of Bahrain on the sporting and social levels. Our mission is to provide infrastructure for those with determination, integrating them into society, and giving them equal opportunities with their loved ones to compete in sport, to represent Bahrain in international forums, from the basic to the highest levels of elite competitions, to raise the flag of the Kingdom in international tournaments. We work with the objective of developing sporting infrastructure, hosting Paralympic competitions, and training and empowering national-level athletes.

How is the committee helping para athletes to prepare for international sporting competitions?
The players are trained to overcome their difficulties through structured and supportive training environments and expert coaches from the local community. We oversee their diet and exercise regimens, and provide them with facilities and resources to excel in their competitions. A supportive network is in place to meet their emotional, psychological or physical needs. The Kingdom has been supporting people with impairment in sports for decades now through multiple organisations that are dedicated to specific disabilities; the BPC acts as an umbrella to them.

12 female Para Athletes represented the Kingdom at the 6th GCC Women’s Games in Kuwait last month. They have trained very hard for it and we are immensely proud of each and every one of them.

Why are sports important for the physically impaired?
Sports play a big role in the immediate and long-term relief of people with impairment. As they are often dealing with health issues (physical and mental), their ability to socialise and develop a healthy level of self-esteem and self-confidence are impacted.

While sports give obvious physical benefits, such as stronger muscles, better cardiovascular and aerobic fitness, and improved motor skills, there are also social, emotional and psychological benefits. They create an environment that allows for such people to meet others like them and make friends. They also learn crucial life skills like teamwork, cooperation, working towards objectives and handling defeats and disappointments. Self-esteem, leadership and organisational skills also come with team sports. 

People with impairment learn from sports to accept their differences, and that they are all special in their own way; we have to find our own talents. Sports make them feel more recognised and more enabled.

What values do you hope to instill in the general youth through these players?
Para athletes have the ability to inspire and excite the world; they are people first and foremost and must be treated with respect and dignity. We want the general public, specifically the youth, to embrace inclusion and diversity, understand that people with impairment have the right to contribute to society and enjoy the benefits of true productivity through schooling, employment, and community engagement.

What are the upcoming international tournaments / sporting events that the committee and athletes are preparing for?
We have a large Bahraini para athlete delegation heading to the 9th World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai this month. There are more than 170 gold medals up for grabs. This event provides one of the last opportunities for para athletes to achieve the qualification standards for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, so it will be a significant and defining championship for Bahrain’s para athletes. 

Also, Bahrain aims to host the first Para Athletics Boccia Open 2019 in December. This will be an exciting time for us as we prepare our para athletes, volunteers, participating organisations and partners, and our nation, for a historic time in the Paralympic movement of the Kingdom. 

Ruba Alomari Winner of international Shot PutRuba Alomari – Winner of international Shot Put, Discus and Javelin Throw competitions

How do you feel when you play and master the sport?
I feel excited and eager to develop so that I can achieve further accomplishments and raise Bahrain’s flag on (international) podiums.

Zahra Klaeeb Winner of international Shot PutZahra Klaeeb – Winner of international Shot Put, Discus and Javelin Throw competitions

What motivates you to excel in your sport?
Achieving success and raising Bahrain’s name high.

Mariam Al Humaidi Winner of international Shot PutMariam Al Humaidi – Winner of international Shot Put, Discus and Javelin Throw competitions

How much time do you spend training?
I train daily when I have a championship coming up, otherwise it’s every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The para athletes would like to thank everyone who enabled them, from the management of the BPC, to sponsors and donors.