The Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 saw the UAE winning 73 medals, including 18 gold medals, 22 silver medals, and 33 bronze medals. The Games were held from June 17 to 25 and saw the participation of the largest delegation from the Middle East and North Africa region, comprising 167 individuals. The delegation included 72 athletes of determination with intellectual and developmental disabilities and 31 unified partners who competed in 20 different sports.
Athletes from Special Olympics UAE had a strong start on day one, securing multiple medals, including a gold in gymnastics. Athletes in roller skating delivered the following gold medals. Ghanem Al Memari and Nejood Binhidarah were among them. A bronze medal was won by Judo player Roudha Al Ahbabi, in the 100-kilogram category, following intensive training with her Japanese coach, Koki Uchida. Zayed Al Kaabi, who had their first World Games participation in Berlin, won bronze in Tennis.
Veteran swimmer Omar Al Shami secured the 200-meter freestyle gold medal, while Alia Al Muhairi won first place in the 25-meter freestyle event. Swim swimmers from Special Olympics UAE won four bronze medals in different events, while powerlifting athletes secured two bronze medals.
Asma Ali won gold and bronze was won by Hareb Anbar in athletics. In roller skating, a gold medal was won by Sayah Al-Habash, while Nejood Binhidarah finished fourth. In cycling, two athletes won two silvers and two bronzes. A competitor came second in equestrian sports, and in bocce, a participant won a silver medal.
According to Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, the Minister of Community Development and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Special Olympics UAE, the athletes from Special Olympics UAE had a successful run at the Berlin Games 2023, earning a significant number of medals. This achievement has positioned Special Olympics UAE as the largest delegation and highest achiever in the MENA region.
According to Al Mazrui, this remarkable success results from hard work and preparations over many months preceding the games. This success is dedicated to President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a foremost supporter of People of Determination and their inclusion in society. The athletes, their families, coaches, and support teams deserve congratulations for their tremendous success. The official team sponsor, ADNOC Group, and all strategic partners, including H.H. Sheikha Maryam bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Honorary Chair of Special Olympics UAE, who spearheaded the program with good vision, have also contributed to this achievement.
Talal Al Hashemi, National Director of Special Olympics UAE and Head of the UAE delegation at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 stated that the athletes performed admirably in Berlin, and it was touching to witness the entire nation rally behind them. Gratitude is extended to the official team sponsor, ADNOC Group, and to all those who supported and encouraged the athletes, including coaches, medics, delegation management staff, and volunteers who were present throughout the journey. Appreciation is also extended to the UAE Embassy in Germany, His Excellency Ambassador Ahmed Al-Attar, and members of the UAE Mission for their generosity and hospitality, which had a significant impact on morale from the first moment of arrival in Berlin. Finally, thanks to the athletes’ families who traveled to Germany to encourage their loved ones.
Before the delegation’s departure to Berlin, ADNOC declared its sponsorship of the Special Olympics UAE delegation via an MoU agreement. The collaboration aims to support Special Olympics UAE programs to empower athletes in various sports activities, which reflects positively on individuals with disabilities in society.
Outstanding results have been achieved in unified sports.
Unified Partners had a strong presence throughout the World Games Berlin 2023. At the bowling event, a silver medal was won by the Special Olympics UAE unified team, and the men’s doubles team won another silver medal. Additionally, a bronze medal was won by the women’s doubles team. The unified doubles team in the women’s category in Tennis won a silver medal. Athletes Zakeya Al Maazmi and Hassan Al Balooshi in badminton won the gold medal, while the unified golf team won the silver medal.
In team competitions, the beach volleyball team (men) won the gold medal, and the volleyball team (women) won the silver after a strong performance against India. The men’s unified basketball team earned the gold medal following a spirited game against China.
On the sidelines of the Games, the UAE became a founding member of the International Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion, a pioneering multilateral effort to support individuals with intellectual disabilities. The commitment is to support the expansion of inclusive sports and education opportunities to over 2 million young people in more than 150,000 schools and scale Special Olympics programming to 180 nations.
Furthermore, the Global Athlete Congress took place, where 60 global projects were presented. The Middle East and North Africa region presented ten projects from various countries, including the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Tunisia, and Kuwait. The project presented by the UAE focuses on establishing unified clubs that include people of determination and their peers in 20 schools.