Iraq will be out to defend their Rio 2016 medals, against all odds, when they open their campaign at the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The war-torn nation made their Paralympic Games début at the Barcelona 1992 Games. Since then, it has competed in every edition of the Games, securing a total of 13 medals including, three gold, six silver and four bronze.
Their best-ever performance has been at the Rio 2016 Games where they clinched five medals, including two gold medals in Para athletics and three silver.
At the Tokyo 2020 Games, Iraq will field 18 athletes in five sports – Para archery (2), Para athletics (7), Para powerlifting (5), wheelchair fencing (3) and Para table tennis (1). The squad will be led by their Paralympic stars Kovan Abdulraheem (men’s javelin throw F41) and Garrah Tnaiash (men’s shot put F40).
“The team is upbeat about competing at the Games. We have had thorough training in local and international camps, but there were some problems because of the pandemic. Our aim is to retain the number of medals that were claimed at Rio 2016, especially in Para athletics, Para powerlifting and wheelchair fencing,” said Obaid Alghazzawi, Chef de Mission of Team Iraq.
Owing to the current situation in Iraq, that has witnessed several blasts and conflicts in the recent past leading to destruction of infrastructure, closing of training camps etc., the team was forced to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, for long training camps and recently returned from one and a half month intense training.
Tnaiash, who will be the top medal contender in men’s F40 shot put, is upbeat that his hard work will pay off.
“I have prepared well and hope to get a good result. However, there has been a lot of pressure due to COVID-19 pandemic. I hope I can compete to my expectation,” said Tnaiash, the multiple-time World Champion.
FENCER AMMAR ALI AIMS TO BETTER MEDAL COLOUR
Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallist Ammar Ali was confident after the training camp in Turkey and would be aiming to better the colour of his medal this time.
“2020 has been the most stressful year with no competition and training. But I stayed patient and hoped things get better. I have worked very hard in the last few months and eager to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Games. There is a mixed feeling going into the Games as I haven’t competed in any tournament since 2019. I hope I get my rhythm and able to play my game in Tokyo,” said Ali, who has worked on his defence of late.
“Training in Baghdad has become very difficult now with conflicts and bomb blasts every now and then, and moreover due to the Covid-19 Pandemic the stadia are closed. We had to spent most of our time at home without any training. But we are thankful to the Iraq NPC and government who supported us with training abroad. This has benefitted the players a lot,” added Ali.
Among other top names to watch out from Iraq are: Rio 2016 Paralympic and Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games silver medallist in Para powerlifting Rasool Mohsin (men’s -72kg), London 2012 silver medallist Para powerlifter Faris Al Aljeeli (men’s +107kg) and two-time Paralympic medallist Para athlete Wildan Nukhailawi (men’s javelin throw F41), among others.
Another highlight in the team would be Fatimah Suwaed, who will make history becoming the youngest ever athlete from the country at 14 to compete at the Games. She will be in action in women’s 100m and 200m T35 events. The squad also features Zaman Al Saedi who had finished fourth in women’s individual recurve open and fifth in mixed team recurve open at Rio 2016.
by International Paralympic Committee