Team Qatar’s Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic athletes have joined in National Sport Day celebrations across Qatar as the nation came together for a sixth consecutive year to participate in and enjoy sport. Qatar’s sporting heroes turned out to share their experiences and advice as national federations organised activities across Qatar for all ages and abilities.
Speaking from another hugely successful National Sport Day, President of the Qatar Olympic Committee, Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, said: “Our athletes are an inspiration to our nation and are excellent role models for our young people and we are delighted that so many of them were able to join in the celebrations today and pass on their experiences and guidance to aspiring young athletes.
“National Sport Day provides a unique opportunity to unite our nation through sport and share the Olympic spirit,and it is pleasing to see such large numbers of people turning out with their families and friends to participate in the many activities across Qatar. This is about more than just one day of sport – it is about kick-starting a future of health, happiness and success and we hope today’s festivities have inspired people of all ages and abilities to participate in regular activity at any level.”
H.E. Sheikh Joaan and QOC Secretary General, H.E. Dr Thani Abdulrahman Al Kuwari toured and joined in National Sport Day activities taking place around Qatar. Also participating were leaders of international sport, including CEO of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Olivier Gers, and President of the International School Sport Federation (ISF), Laurent Petrynka.
Commenting on his participation, Mr Petrynka said: “I have been very impressed with the involvement of so many schools across Qatar in National Sport Day, including children with a disability. All populations, stakeholders and the highest authority in the country, including His Highness The Amir of Qatar, have been participating in sport today, showing how the sporting spirit is continuing to grow in Qatar. Starting from the basics and promoting sport on a day like today is also a very good way for schools and federations to detect talented pupils for the future. You can see a very high level of skilled pupils across Qatar.”
Despite the wet weather, Katara was buzzing all day with multiple national federations organising an array of activities for everyone to enjoy. Team Qatar Olympians Fares Ibrahim and Kamal Mallash joined in the activities and spoke to the public about their Rio 2016 experiences. Ibrahim had a breakthrough year in 2016 with a bronze medal in the World Youth Championships, eighth place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in a field of incredibly experienced athletes, and three gold medals at the Asian Junior Weightlifting Championships.Mallash was a member of Qatar’s historic handball team that won silver at the 2015 World Championships andwas on hand to show budding young handball players what it takes to become a champion athlete. Speaking from Katara Beach, Mallash said:
“It has been amazing to see so many people playing and loving handball today and it is great to watch how the sport has taken off in Qatar since the World Championships in 2015. There was a lot of talent out there today and I hope that they all continue to play the sport. Perhaps they will become Qatar’s future Olympic Champions!”
At the Qatar Paralympic Committee (QPC), Qatar’s first ever Paralympic medallists, Abdelrahman Abdelqader and Sara Masoud, together with Mohammed Al Kubaisi, joined the activities and showed young people their Rio 2016 silver medals. Para-sport in Qatar has been continuing to grow since Doha hosted the IPC Athletics World Championships in 2015 and today’s NSD activities helped to further raise awareness about the opportunities and benefits of participating in para-sport. Speaking from the QPC, Abdelqader said: “Winning silver at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games was a dream come true and I hope that I showed young people across Qatar that anything is possible and that you can achieve your goals, whatever your circumstances. It was really good to meet so many young athletes today and to see them all participating in and enjoying para-sport. I hope to see many of them return again in the future.”
Hamad Aquatic Centre welcomed Qatar’s first-ever female double Olympian, Nada Arakji, to participate in a swimming open day and inspire youngsters through her experiences at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics. Swimming is one of the fastest growing sports in Qatar and with the Aquatics World Championships coming to Doha in 2023, now is the perfect time to take up the sport. Nada commented: “I believe that swimming is the best sport as it works every muscle in the body, helps you de-stress and is a great way to stay fit and healthy. Competing in the Olympic Games was one of the best experiences of my life and I hope to inspire a lot of women, especially from younger generations to be the best that they can be and do the sport that they love - it doesn’t have to be swimming.”
National Sport Day was established in 2012 with the aim of uniting the nation in a shared celebration of sport and inspiring people to lead active and healthy lifestyles. Qatar is one of the only countries in the world to dedicate a public holiday to sport and the number of people that turned up to join in activities this year shows how it continues to be a huge success. Members of the public who have been inspired by Team Qatar on National Sport Day can keep up to date with their journeys and gain tips and advice on staying healthy and active on the Qatar Olympic Committee’s social media channels under the hashtag #YallaQatar.