Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shot putter with Down syndrome gets Middle East ready for Special Olympics

From 7Days in the UAE:

A super-strong special needs athlete has been showing her skills in Dubai this week ahead of the Special Olympics Middle East.

Egyptian shot-putter Dina Galal (pictured), who has Down’s Syndrome, has won dozens of medals, travelled the world competing in tournaments and even dined at the White House, proving disability does not have to stop people pursuing their dreams.

Unfortunately, she had to leave the shot-put at home during this visit to the UAE as it was too heavy to pass through customs.

Instead Gala, pictured, demonstrated her technique to 7DAYS using a hefty rock.

The 39-year-old took up sport as a child and soon developed a talent for the field event which involves catapulting a 3kg steel ball as far as she can.

By 1995, she was competing in the Special Olympics.

Now she wants the public to rally behind special needs athletes and take part in an awareness walk in Dubai.

Galal, who was elected Special Olympics global messenger for the Middle East, said: “I love the shot-put. It keeps me fit and healthy and it makes me happy. I have something in me and I want to express myself. This is how I do that.”

Galal and her mum Fathma Sakr hope to raise the profile of people living with a disability and hope to challenge the public’s perception of what it means to have a handicap.

Sakr said: “Everyone has a disability in some way.

Maybe you wear glasses, maybe you have an injured knee, maybe you have sadness in your heart - these are all disabilities. The mentally handicapped must be treated with respect and encouragement.

“When Dina was small I wanted her to have independence and do something she loves which is why I encouraged her to do sport. She is so happy. We want the public to support the Special Olympics and give others a chance.”

This year’s Special Olympics Middle East are being held in Syria in September and the teams need sponsors to help with expenses such as travel or equipment.

Special Olympians will be walking shoulder-to-shoulder on February 7 at Lulu in Al Barsha as part of ‘Step up for a dream’ to raise awareness of the competition and are inviting the public to join them.

“I am very excited,” said Galal. “I feel very happy about it and my mum will be coming too.”