On the side

Abeer Anwar , Tuesday 28 Jan 2020

The first Special Olympics Pan-African Games kicked off with a number of events on and off the field

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Basketball in the first Special Olympics Pan-African Games started heating up as Morocco won their match against Egypt 23-12 in the first basketball divisioning match while Egypt’s women’s team answered back by beating Morocco 39-17.

A divisioning takes place before each competition. A time, score and skill assessment is submitted for each athlete or team. The athletes are also judged in other events that are not timed or measured such as football where there is a series of short games between athletes or teams. There can also be an assessment of each athlete or a team’s ability by a committee. The divisions are then set up based on the information on each athlete’s skill level so that each set of competitors is closely matched.

The Morocco men›s team had overcome Burundi 24-5 and Tunisia 35-8. The Egyptian men’s team beat Burundi 37-7 and Morocco 18-5 while Egypt’s unified basketball team also beat Morocco 18-0 while Morocco’s unified women’s team beat Egypt 16-9.

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Five teams are participating in basketball: Egypt, Morocco, Burundi, Tunisia and Algeria. A match consists of four quarters, eight minutes each and each team consists of five players.

As football is the number one sport worldwide, it also attracted a lot of attention at the Special Olympics. The divisioning matches saw Egypt’s women taking advantage of Rwanda 5-0. In Special Olympics, football matches are two halves, six minutes each, and each team comprises five players: three athletes and two partners.

In the men’s football, Algeria beat Kenya 3-2, Ghana overcame Kenya 1-0, Egypt beat Rwanda 2-1 and Seychelles 5-1 to qualify to the finals. In women’s football, Egypt beat South Africa 5-0.

Egypt›s team consisted of Yasmine Abdel-Radi, Bassant Abdel-Aziz, Yasmine Mohamed, Aya Ahmed, Aliaa Shokri, Merna Mohsen, Sherouk Sayed, Mariam Tarek, Mariam Mohamed and Alaa Fawzi and is coached by Fayza Heider and assisted by Noha Ahmed.

The Kenyan men›s team conquered Egypt 5-0 while Rwanda drew 0-0 with Ghana. Algeria triumphed over Seychelles 2-0, Egypt edged Rwanda 1-0, Ghana beat Seychelles 1-0 and Algeria drew against Kenya.

A total of 188 athletes representing 29 African countries participated in the athletics divisioning which include 25m, 50m, 100m, 400m, and 800m track in addition to the long jump, shot put, relay and 200m sprint. The main athletics competitions started in Cairo Stadium after the newspaper went to press.

Alongside the Games, a number of initiatives are taking place, including the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Programme which provides free health screenings for 515 Special Olympics athletes in a welcoming environment.  They will deliver free health screenings in six medical fields to eventually reach 3,000 screenings by the end of the Games: FUNfitness (physical therapy), Health Promotion (better health and well-being), Healthy Hearing (audiology), Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes (vision), Special Smiles (dentistry) and Strong Minds (emotional well-being).

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Managing Director and head of the Local Organising Committee Ayman Abdel-Wahab thanked all the Healthy Athletes Programme volunteer doctors, saying he considers the programme one of the most important in Special Olympics. It improves the health of Special Olympics athletes and ensures their full fitness prior and during the practicing of sports.

Special Olympics Young Athletes is also taking place alongside the Games. It is a sport and play programme for children with and without intellectual disabilities (ID), ages two to seven. Young Athletes introduces basic sports skills, like running, kicking and throwing. It offers families, teachers, caregivers and people from the community the chance to share the joy of sports with children. Children learn how to play with others and develop important skills for learning. These skills help children in family, community and school activities.

Young Athletes is a fun way for children to get fit. It is important to teach children healthy habits while they are young. This can set the stage for a life of physical activity, friendships and learning.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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