Team Palestine at the 2012 Paralympic Games
At the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Palestine is represented by two athletes taking part in a variety of track and field events. The IMEU offers a brief description of each member of Team Palestine and the results of their competitions to date.
From Gaza, 32-year-old Mohammed Fannouna is a likely medal contender, having won Bronze in the Long Jump in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. This time around, he will be competing in the Long Jump, 100m, 200m, and Javelin Throw.
Partially-sighted Fannouna has met with success in international competitions more recently, winning two gold medals and three bronze at the Arab Games in Doha in 2011 as well as a gold in the Long Jump in the 2010 Asia Games.
While he and fellow competitor Khamis Zaqout spent ten days training in Qatar before heading to the games in London, Fannouna is realistic about his chances, especially given the difficulties he faces training in Gaza. "Every player hopes to get the gold in London. But without the facilities and training that other players have, I can't realistically expect it. Bronze would still be a big achievement, given that we don't have an Olympic training camp or even a track on which I can sprint."
Men's 100m: Friday, August 31: Placed seventh in the second heat, did not advance.
Men's Long Jump: Saturday, September 1: Placed ninth in the final.
Men's Javelin Throw: Wednesday, September 5
Men's 200m: Thursday, September 6
From the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, 47-year-old Khamis Zaquot is Team Palestine's brightest hope for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Competing in the Shot Put, Discus Throw and Javelin Throw for F55 athletes (those who are wheelchair bound), "Zaqout is definitely going to win a medal," said Ala Shataly, a member of the Palestinian Paralympic Committee.
Injured at a construction site in Israel in 1992 which left him partially paralyzed, Zaqout initially took up swimming and basketball as a means of rehabilitation. On advice from his coaches, he switched to track and field events and immediately excelled. At the Paralympic Qualifiers in Dubai in March of this year, the father of nine set a new world record in the shot put and came home with five gold medals.
Despite living under Israeli blockade and occupation and lacking adequate training facilities, Zaqout has his head up high. "My success shows the world that here is a Palestinian in Gaza, which is besieged and disadvantaged, yet still able to compete at international levels. We are human beings from humble beginnings, who changed the concept of Palestine and of disabled sports and that is my purpose and message. There is no such thing as impossible."
Men's Shot Put: Saturday, September 1: Placed fourth in the final.
Men's Discus Throw: Wednesday, September 5
Men's Javelin Throw: Saturday, September 8