Here are the top 10 Arab athletes who won 2016
Al Arabiya takes a look at the top athletes who won the hearts and support of the world this year
Whether it was through the Rio Olympics, Paralympics, or football, these athletes made a name for themselves and their respective countries this year. Al Arabiya takes a look at the top athletes who won the hearts and support of the world this year:
Since the Arab world took the Olympics by storm this year, winning 16 medals, including 3 gold, it is only fit to start with those athletes. Bahraini Ruth Jebet, who competed in the 3000m steeplechase event, won gold for this event at the Rio Olympics, but went a step further to break the World Record for the 3000m Steeplechase, at the 2016 IAAF Diamond League. Although she was born in Kenya, she competes internationally for Bahrain, which is seen sometimes as disloyalty to Kenya, but on the other hand, this choice may have given her the necessary tools to achieve all this before she even turned 20.
Ahmad Abu Ghaush
The Arab Taekwondo champion, participated, and won the men’s 68kg event. This Jordanian athlete turned 20 in February 2016, and still had the character and personality to go into the competition, face older and more experienced fighters, and still beat them all. To add to his glory, this is Jordan’s first ever Olympic gold medal, ever since the country first participated in 1980.
The final Arab gold medalist, a Kuwaiti shooter that was forced to participate under the Olympic Flag. This was due to Kuwait’s suspension from the Olympics by the IOC, due to insufficient effort on the government’s behalf. This in turn forced Kuwaiti athletes to sign up as independant athletes, and gave Al Deehani the chance to be the first ever independant gold medallist. This Kuwaiti officer has previously competed in Trap and Double Trap events, coming in third in 2000 and 2012, before returning home in 2016 at the top spot.
Finally, the last olympian to be included in the list, a Judoka originally from Moldova, but competing internationally under the UAE. The bronze medal that he clinched in Rio was a big deal, as it is the second medal the UAE ever gets at the Olympics. The first was in Athens 2004, and more importantly, a gold medal, by shooter Ahmad Al Maktoum. Although this was only the nation’s 9th appearance at the Olympics, they should be doing a better job of getting athletes to participate and win these games, instead of holding only two measly medals.
Wojdan Shaherkani & Sarah Attar
Two of the most important Saudi athletes this year happened to be women. Disregarding the shortage, more specifically, nonexistence of medals, these women faced barriers and fought stereotypes to reach the world’s most prestigious sporting stage. After Saudi Arabia was going to be banned from the Olympics for lack of female participation, Judoka Wojdan Shaherkani, and runner Sarah Attar stepped up and competed for their country. After solving several issues, from the type of hijab they are allowed to wear, to actually getting the Saudi government and people to recognize them as athletes, not just women, Wojdan and Sarah competed in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.
Mohammed Khamis Khalaf
A powerlifter at the Paralympics, he won his, and the UAE’s second gold medal in Rio. He won his first at the 2004 games in Athens, before winning this summer in the men’s 88kg powerlifting competition, lifting 220kg. Khalaf lost use of his legs after being diagnosed with Polio as a child. He hasn’t let this stop him though, as he is the only Emirati who has won a gold medal at the Paralympics, not to mention two!
Omar Al Somah
Now that the Olympics have been covered, we can turn to football, where there are quite a few Arab players that are making themselves seen. First off, none of than Omar Al Somah, who might be the first person to have made this list. This Syrian footballer has been playing with Al-Ahli in the Saudi Pro League for the past two years, and has won the Golden Boot twice, which is awarded to the season’s top scorer. Al Ahli Player of the Year 2015-16, he looks like he’s on the path to do it again, as he leads the table with 14 goals under his belt.
This Arab player is slightly more known than the rest, and is playing on a stage that is on a completely different level. Riyad Mahrez, the Algerian winger, who plays for Leicester City, is one that had a great year in 2016. His price tag went up from £4.5 Million to around £30 Million, in addition to winning the Premier League with Leicester City last season. To top this all off, he won the PFA Player’s Player of the Year. Mahrez should be an example to other Arab athletes who have lost hope or are struggling to make it, showing that it doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are, all it takes is hard work and dedication.
Yusra Mardini is the 18 year-old Syrian swimmer who won the hearts and support of the world during the 2016 Brazil Olympics where she competed for the first-ever refugee team. She fled Syria at the height of the civil war, among millions of migrants who crossed the Atlantic from Turkey seeking refuge in Europe. When the dinghy she was on began to sink, she swam and pushed the dinghy forward, as well as helped others who couldn’t swim.
These issues will need to be resolved in the future, and I wonder what these athletes will be up to in 2017!