Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; March 20, 2019: Saudi Arabia Special Olympics bocce athlete Shahad Sunbul has won three golds and two silvers at the Special Olympics World Games. Yet when asked about her favorite memories, this 15-year-old Jeddah native points to all the new friendships she has made and the confidence she has found.
“The Games have changed our lives for the best,” said Abdullah Sunbul, Shahad’s father, from the sidelines of her doubles bocce match. Shahad competed alongside teammate and friend Sara Felemban, 17.
“When we found out we would be coming through the Jeddah Help Center, we were very happy. It has helped make Shahad stronger. She is more focused and has new friends,” he said. “Shahad has even learned to accept losing when it happens, and has learned all about having a sporting spirit. She says they are all winners,” added Abdullah.
In addition to Shahad and Sara’s bocce games, Saudi Arabian athletes competed across numerous sports on Tuesday. Results include one gold in athletics – standing long jump from Juri Alquthmi; one silver in standing long jump from Bashayr Sawwaf; one gold in athletics – 100m run won by Mohammed Alrefai; and one gold in 25m swimming, won by Faisal Adel Algosaibi.
“The basketball team beats as one heart,” said 22-year-old Maan Alkhidr, a player on the Saudi Arabia men’s unified basketball team. The men’s team played against Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday. “We are so proud to be here today with people from all over. Win or lose, we are in this together.”
As the largest team ever to represent Saudi Arabia at Special Olympics World Games, 50 athletes – 21 female and 29 male – are participating across 10 sports throughout the event, including basketball, bocce, athletics, powerlifting, roller skating, swimming, triathlon, table tennis, bowling and unified sports. They are accompanied to Abu Dhabi by a delegation including representatives from Special Olympics Saudi Arabia Federation (SOSAF), coaches, and healthcare professionals, as well as their family and more than 200 volunteers from Saudi Arabia. Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 has more than 7,500 athletes from 192 nations competing in 24 sports from March 14-21.
Following the World Games 2019, Saudi Arabia Special Olympics Federation will continue to support Special Olympics athletes through a comprehensive ecosystem of programs, including athletics and physical activity coaching, healthcare, and more.
Special Olympics Saudi Arabia aims to recognize the athletic capability of all members of Saudi society, providing a platform of enablement and support for athletes with intellectual disabilities. It is responsible for bringing the entire universe of Special Olympics to Saudi Arabia, including sports participation, equity, healthcare, social inclusion, and more, with the ambition of creating a stronger future for the Kingdom in which all members can proudly participate. Engage with Special Olympics Saudi Arabia team on Twitter and Instagram: @SaudiArabiaSO.