Turn of the Paralympics

Abeer Anwar , Tuesday 17 Aug 2021

Now that the Tokyo Olympics have ended, the Paralympics take over the global spotlight, reports Abeer Anwar

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics witnessed drama, surprises, amazing performances and records aplenty but there is still more to watch and enjoy. With 4,400 Paralympic athletes competing in 22 sports, the world will enjoy more of the same. Under the motto ‘United by Emotion’ the Paralympic champions with a range of disabilities will compete but in the same unusual circumstances of the Tokyo Olympics due to Covid-19.

From 24 August to 4 September the 16th Summer Paralympics will be the second time the Games have been hosted by the Japanese capital – 1964 being the other occasion.  

In the run-up to the opening ceremony, the Paralympic Games will host a series of flame festivals for the Paralympic Torch Relay.

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Spanning across all of Japan’s 43 prefectures as well as in Stoke Mandeville in the United Kingdom - the birthplace of the Paralympic movement - the flame will be brought together to create a single flame at a flame gathering event in Tokyo on 20 August.

The Paralympic flame will also tour Shizuoka, Chiba and Saitama before the climax of the Paralympic Torch Relay starting from 17 August to 24 August.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games mascot is quite a cool character, with mighty powers and cherry blossom tactile sensors. SOMEITY can use the sensors on the sides of its head for telepathic powers, fly using its Ichimatsu-pattern cape and even move objects without touching them. SOMEITY has a calm and quiet presence, guided by great inner strength, but can display superpowers that embody the toughness and determination of the Paralympic athletes. SOMEITY can show enormous mental and physical strength, representing Paralympic athletes who overcome obstacles and redefine the boundaries of possibility.

Egypt will be making its 13th appearance at the Summer Paralympics with a delegation of 95 of which 49 are athletes. They are competing in seven sports, two of which are newly introduced: badminton and Para Taekwondo. Hayat Khattab, Egyptian Olympic Committee president, told Al-Ahram Weekly, “We will do our best this time to collect a number of medals. In Rio 2016, we collected 12 medals: three gold, five silver and four bronze. Of course, we are ready but the coronavirus affected all the teams’ training camps. In spite of that, we are eager to win as many medals as we can especially that we were supported and funded by the Ministry of Sports and four sponsors that have given us a helping hand. I promise all Egyptians that my Paralympic athletes will raise the Egyptian flag in the different sports and we will bag a bigger number of medals than ever,” Khattab said.

Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhi addressed the Egyptian Paralympians: “I am sure that you are all full of enthusiasm after seeing the six medals collected by the Egyptian delegation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. I am very confident that you will collect more and I have equalised bonuses for Paralympians like the Olympians. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is always after equality and is encouraging all athletes in the different competitions. I hope to receive all of you when you are returning victorious, adorned with medals from Tokyo,” Sobhi said.

In an exclusive interview with the Weekly, Japanese Ambassador to Egypt Noke Masaki expressed his happiness to be among the Egyptian Paralympians during a press conference held ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. “I am very proud of the Egyptian athletes. Most of them are world champions and medal winners in the Paralympics. I am sure they will shine in Tokyo. Japan has done its best to make the Olympics and the coming Paralympics a success amid very extraordinary circumstances due to the Covid-19 pandemic. From my point of view, what is more important than medals is participation and communication with other cultures and making new friends.”

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Listed on the official website of the International Paralympic Committee is the Egyptian table tennis player Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh, one of the top 10 players to watch in the sport. Saleh has been at the top of his game for more than 20 years and has won everything up for grabs in class four at the African Championships. Success at continental level has spanned two decades for Saleh who captured his first individual gold at the Africa-Middle East Championships in 1999 and won for an incredible ninth time in 2019.

In London 2012 Salah won a bronze in the class four singles and now is on the brink of history as he is set to become the first African table tennis player to feature at a fifth Paralympic Games after winning his way through his toughest qualification tournament yet.

Salma Ali Abdel-Moneim was also chosen as one of the best 10 teen stars who can light up the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Since winning a silver medal in the 58kg division at the 2019 African Open Para Taekwondo Championship, Abdel-Moneim has emerged as one of the most exciting up-and-coming fighters to keep your eye on in the coming years. As Para taekwondo makes its debut at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Abdel Moneim is the one to beat in her division.

She claimed her berth at Tokyo in 2019 by winning the African qualifying championship. Abdel-Moneim knocked off the USA’s No 2 Brianna Salinaro on her way to a surprise silver medal in the women’s up to 58kg in her first international competition.

Para powerlifting will make history in Tokyo as the sport will have an equal number of female and male athletes competing at the Paralympic Games for the first time.

A total of 180 Para powerlifters, 90 female and 90 male, will take part in the Games across 10 bodyweight categories for women and men, respectively.

Egypt will be represented by more female than male athletes in Japan, with eight women and seven men all of whom are world champions and Paralympic medal winners. Fatma Omar, who participated in six Paralympic Games, collected the silver in Rio 2016. Sherif Othman is a gold medalist of the London 2012 Paralympics.  
Medal events will now have an equal number of powerlifters, too. The competition schedule will be balanced, with the same number of men’s and women’s events per session per day.

Tokyo 2020 will also see gender equality among technical officials, with the same number of men and women officiating.

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The International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) or Goalball, announced that the Egyptian women’s team will compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games following the withdrawal of Algeria.

Egypt received its slot following its redistribution by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) according to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games qualification regulations.

Egypt will go into the pot alongside defending champions Turkey, world champions Russia – who will compete as neutrals – hosts Japan, Brazil, the US, Australia, Canada, China and Israel.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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