MUSCAT: An Oman Sail team is making final preparations before heading to the first Special Olympics World Games ever held in the Middle East. The six-strong Omani team will be among more than 7,500 athletes from no fewer than 176 countries who will gather in Abu Dhabi for the start of the Games on March 14. Sailing is one of 24 individual and team sports represented at the two-week event, earning its place as an accessible sport that can accommodate disabled athletes of all backgrounds and abilities. Oman is supporting the Games by providing 12 two-person Bahia boats.
“Oman Sail is delighted to be able to support the Special Olympics World Games with boats and to be able also send a team to what is sure to be an inspiring event,” said Ali Al Shuhaimi, who is the Oman team leader and will be assisting the Race Director during the sailing event. “We have always valued sailing as an accessible sport for all people, whatever their background or ability, and it is great to be able to showcase the achievements of our team, as well as that of all the sailors taking part from around the world.”
The youngest member of the Omani team is 17 year-old Abdullah Saleh Al Ruqaishi, who will be racing in the two-person Bahia class with sailing instructor Saleh Al Raisi from Muscat’s Marina Bandar Al Rowdha. Joining him in the Bahia fleet are Mahmood Hamood Al Hasni, aged 25, and Samir Sulaiman Al Harthi, 19, who will sail with Al Mouj instructors Abdullaziz Al Sabahi and Ghassan Gulam Khuda Bakhsh Al Zadjali respectively. All three pairs will benefit from coaching by Mohammed Al Battashi, who is also from Oman Sail’s Al Mouj sailing school.
In the single-person Laser Radial class Sufuat Ahmed Al Kharusi, 25, is racing alongside teammates Mohamed Ahmed Al Wahaibi, 24, and Muhana Salim Al Manji, 22, all under the watchful eye of Laser coach Ahmed Al Wahaibi. “We are hoping for good mid-fleet performances in both classes,” said Al Shuhaimi, and we have targeted fifth place finishes from one of our sailors in each one.” Also playing an active part in the Special Olympics World Games are Ahmed Al Qasmi, Nawaf Al Ghadani, Sameer Al Battashi and Faisal Al Qaitaiti, who will be part of the race management team. In addition, Ali Ambousaidi from Oman Sail’s Corporate and Personal Development department will be of the Game’s jury. The Special Olympics World Games will run in Abu Dhabi until March 21. The sailing event will be held at the Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club.
Established in 2008, Oman Sail is a national initiative that uses the power of sport to contribute to the development of Oman. The equal opportunity project runs sailing programmes for hundreds of young Omani men and women, inspiring a new generation to discover sailing. It encompasses a national sailing squad and high achieving inshore and offshore racing teams, all of which benefit from world-class coaching.