The athletes at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019

Some of the inspirational sportsmen and women taking part in the event

The athletes at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019

Soon Abu Dhabi is going to be buzzing with Special Olympics fever. 

And while the athletes taking part in the World Games might not be household names right now, that doesn't mean they don't deserve all the acclaim and attention that they'll get over the course of the ten-day tournament. 

Here are some of the sportspeople taking part in the massive event. 

Butti Al Sheezawi,
Special Olympics UAE
Where to watch: ADNEC

This local basketball star has previously competed in the NBA Unified Basketball Game, four regional Games (Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt) and three Special Olympics World Games (South Korea, Los Angeles and Austria). Al Sheezawi says that these experiences have changed his life and he currently serves on the Athlete Engagement Committee for the Special Olympics World Summer Games Abu Dhabi 2019 and as a board member for Special Olympics UAE.

Damian Johanson,
Special Olympics New Zealand
Where to watch: Zayed Sports City
This friendly sports star is a popular figure in his home town of Porirua in New Zealand. Known for his helpful manner and love for singing jaunty tunes while working at his local grocery store, he’s now gaining fame as the standout goalkeeper for New Zealand’s football team.

Ella Curtis,
Special Olympics Great Britain

Sport: cycling
Where to watch: Yas Marina Circuit
After having a traumatic fall from her bike at the age of six, it took many years for Ella to get her confidence back. But with the help of Adam Tasker, the head coach at Bradford Disability Sport and Leisure in the UK, she caught the biking bug again and she has been successfully cycling using a modified bike for the past four years. Now aged 15, she is extremely excited to be competing in the 2019 World Games with her dad Tim. She’ll also have plenty of people there to cheer her on, as 17 of her family members are travelling over to support her.

Josee Seguin,
Special Olymics Canada
Where to watch: ADNEC
Josee is still riding high after winning three gold medals at Canada’s national games last year. The 27-year-old is among a growing number of female powerlifters competing in the Special Olympic World Games and she’s on a mission to beat her records of deadlifting 295lbs and bench-pressing 137lbs. As a young woman with cerebral palsy her family were once warned that she’d always be in delicate health. It’s really quite amazing how thanks to sport, she has spectacularly proved the doctors wrong.

Nina al Rifai,
Special Olympics Bulgaria
Where to watch: Al Forsan, Hamdan Sports Complex and ADNEC
For years, Nina was a proud member of Special Olympics Syria’s swimming team, and she even represented her country at the 2011 World Games in Athens. But after war forced her and her family to leave the country, they found a new home in Sofia, Bulgaria. Having learnt a new language and adapted to a new culture, Nina has been chosen to represent her new country at the 2019 World Games. Her sister, Diana, hopes to be here in Abu Dhabi to support her, and she says that her older sibling inspires their family to be “the best version of ourselves.”

Nette Tuominen,
Special Olympics Finland

Sport: basketball
Where to watch: ADNEC
Nette, now 23, has been playing Special Olympics basketball since she was ten years old, and she says the best things about the sport are her teammates and being able to learn something new every day. She also coaches a Special Olympics youth basketball team in between her own practice sessions, which during basketball season are held three times a week. For her, going to the 2019 World Games is a dream come true, and although the Finnish men’s basketball team has competed in the past two Special Olympics World Games, this will be the first time for the women’s team.

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