Quest for more glory

March 3- March 9, 2021

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Gulf Weekly Quest for more glory

Bahraini para-athlete Roba Al Omari is determined to achieve golden glory for her country this year.

The 30-year-old from Hamad Town made the kingdom proud by securing the sixth place in discus throw in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Brazil.

Earlier this month, she secured a chance to showcase her skills at the Tokyo 2021 Summer Paralympic Games, after winning two silver medals in the Fazza International Athletics Championships for People with Determination held in Dubai.

This championship was considered a stage for the qualifying rounds for the 2021 Tokyo Games to be held from August 24 to September 5.

“While I was happy to win silver, I was more joyful about my seat in the Paralympics and this time around, I’m going for gold,” said Al Omari who works in the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs.

“I qualified with a distance of 21m97cm when all I needed was 19m92cm.

“I am also aiming to qualify for javelin. Right now, I am short by 22cm but I still have a shot at qualifying. I have a competition in May in Switzerland and if I get a distance of 16m88cm or more, I can qualify.

“It is such an honour to compete in the Paralympics.”

According to International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons, this year’s Games will act as a platform to place disability at the heart of the diversity agenda and show the world why inclusion matters.

“I never felt excluded because I was always popular in school and everyone wanted to be my friend,” said Al Omari.

“But, I have heard a lot of stories of those that did feel excluded. That’s why every time my fellow para-athletes and I get a chance to compete on such an international scale, it shines a light on the kingdom.

“I want people to know that we para-athletes are like everyone else. I qualified for the Paralympics just like any normal athlete that qualified for the Olympics and whether you are disabled or not, it’s a big deal.”

“At the moment, I am the only one that has qualified from my team but I have high hopes for the rest of the Bahraini Para Athletics team. I will be cheering them on from the side-lines in May so that they can qualify as well.”

Al Omari, a paraplegic by birth, joined the Bahrain Disabled Sports Federation in 2013 during her last year at AMA University where she studied business informatics.

She had started her sporting career in wheelchair basketball.

“I used to practise and play with boys.

“But when it was time for competitions, I would stay behind as there wasn’t a girl wheelchair basketball team then.

“Now the federation is thinking of starting a team for women.

“I refused to give up and tried my hand on discus, javelin and shotput and realised I could do well!”

The rest is history.

Since then, Al Omari has taken part in several competitions clinching 25 gold, 13 silver and six bronze. Aside from Bahrain, she has competed in the UK, the UAE, Kuwait, Morocco, Indonesia, China, Brazil, Oman and South Korea.

The ambitious athlete is now training under the guidance of Captain Hassan Muftah after the Fazza International Athletics Championships.

Performance and sports nutrition specialist Mohamed Saad of Bahrain Sports Lab has been assisting her and Mohamed Alburshaid of Fitway Kitchen has been providing her with healthy meals to keep her strength up.

Al Omari thanked Bahrain Paralympic Committee chairman Shaikh Mohammed bin Duaij Al Khalifa for making sure that the team has everything it needs to become successful.

She said: “He makes sure we are all taken care of and constantly follows up with us. He pays attention to every detail. We are so lucky to have him.”

She also thanked her parents for their constant support.

“Growing up, I didn’t feel any different,” she said.

“My family taught me to be independent and while at first I thought they were being hard on me as a child, I realised they were pushing me to develop and grow.

“I hope to continue making them proud.”

For details on Al Omari, follow @robz_01 and  @bahrainnpc on Instagram.

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