Suspended Kuwait lauds Olympic medalists competing as independents at Rio

AFP , Tuesday 16 Aug 2016

Fehaid Al-Deehani
Fehaid Al-Deehani (Reuters)

Kuwait has hailed the two medals won by its athletes who are competing at the Rio Games as independents, following a row between the Gulf state and world sporting bodies.

Kuwait is suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other leading federations such as FIFA, football's world body, over alleged government interference in sport.

Fehaid al-Deehani, who won men's double trap gold last week, and Abdullah Alrashidi, who scooped a bronze in the men's shooting skeet, both competed in Rio as so-called Independent Olympic Athletes.

The Gulf state has never won an Olympic gold medal, and Kuwaiti ruler Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah praised Deehani's achievement as "a unique sporting success".

Sheikh Salman al-Humoud Al-Sabah, the youth and information minister, told the Al Rai daily that he did not want "to politicise the victory".

"The interests and future of Kuwait come first. This victory confirms that we deserve better," he said.

Kuwait Olympic Committee head Sheikh Talal Fahad Al-Sabah said the victories showed there was a "need to change the lack of vision and wrong path that put our athletes in difficult situations, and prevented them from celebrating this historic victory."

Although Deehani was not entitled to have the Kuwait national anthem played when he took to the podium, his victory led to a wave of euphoria in the Gulf state.

"Many sceptics now realise that this participation and achievement are good for the country. We managed to win the heart of viewers, fans and the Arab world," the gold medalist said on his return to Kuwait on Sunday.

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