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Muslim Paralympians bag 154 medals

24th Sep 2021
Muslim Paralympians bag 154 medals

Wheelchair Basketball player Ayaz Bhuta won gold with his teammates, making him the only Muslim medallist representing team GB.(Courtesy of Ayaz Bhuta)

Elham Asaad Buaras

1,668 medals were won in the Paralympics Tokyo Games, and an estimated 180 Muslim athletes (135 men and 45 women) nabbed 154 of them (9.2 per cent), according to an exclusive analysis by The Muslim News.

It is a slight decline from the Rio Games in 2015 when 161 medals were won by Muslim Paralympians, but it is an improvement over the 2012 London Games when Muslim athletes won 136 medals, and the Beijing Olympics of 2008 when Muslim athletes won 106 medals. Muslim athletes won 60 golds (11 per cent), 47 silvers (8.7 per cent) and 46 bronze (7.8 per cent).

Over 12 action-packed days, Tokyo 2020 saw more countries than ever win medals at a single edition of the Paralympic Games, with 86 out of the 162 participating National Paralympic Committees making the podium – surpassing the 83 from Rio in 2016.

For some nations, gold came for the first time. That was the case for Pakistan, with Haider Ali claiming the title in the men’s discus F37 with a Paralympics’ record throw of 55.26. His achievement is remarkable considering Pakistan sent two athletes to compete in athletics.

Of the Muslim majority countries, Iran had the highest number of medals with 24. Nine of the medals (3 golds and 6 silvers) were won in javelin and shot-put competitions. The Gulf country also secured five powerlifiting medals.

Iranian Archer Zahra Nemati hit a perfect 10 in a shoot-off to win her third individual recurve Paralympic gold in a row in Tokyo. She is the second archer in history, after Italy’s Paola Fantato, to win golds at three different editions of the Paralympic Games. She has consistently made history since becoming the first woman from Iran to win a gold medal at either the Olympic or Paralympics’ Games, back in 2012.

Among Muslim nations, Azerbaijan had the highest number of gold medals (14). The country tallied 19 medals overall, beating their previous best of 4 golds and 12 medals in London 2012.

Qatar’s Abdulrahman Abdulqadir Fiqi is his country’s sole medallist, winning a bronze medal in the men’s shot put F34 event and was also Qatar’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony.

Algeria is the most successful African country at the Games having secured 12 medals (10 in athletics, one in Judo and Powerlifting respectively).


Celebrating team GB’s sole Muslim medallist

Ayaz Bhuta, 2016 recipient of The Muslim News Faezeh Hashemi Award for Excellence in Sport, led Great Britain (GB) to a famous wheelchair rugby gold at the Paralympics in Tokyo, beating three-time champions, the United States.

The gold is not just historic for Team GB, who have never won a Paralympics’ wheelchair rugby medal, but also for Bhuta who became team GB’s only Muslim medallist at the Tokyo Games.

The 32-year-old athlete from Bolton told The Muslim News, “Alhumdulillah, I feel honoured to be the only Muslim in the wheelchair rugby team, but I feel like there could be more representation within our community at the Paralympics.”

As a proud Muslim, Bhuta hopes to inspire others in his community and also change perceptions towards disability.

“There are disabled Muslims out there who do not get a chance to shine due to the negative perception towards disability, and I hope with my story I can show it can be achieved. People just need encouragement and the opportunity to shine. I hope to share my story and empower more disabled Asians and Muslims to achieve their dreams.”

Born with an extremely rare genetic disorder called Roberts Syndrome that affects the growth of bones in the limbs, Bhuta was originally a basketball player; he started playing club rugby in 2009 and was selected to play in a tri-nations tournament in Australia in 2010.

In 2011, he was selected for the GB Wheelchair Rugby Development Squad and has since developed more, winning the fans Most Valuable Player award at the World Championships and best 2.5 at the Canada Cup in 2014.

As a key player in the team’s success at the European Championships in 2017, he works just as hard off the court as he does on it, working in schools to inspire the next generation.

He made his Paralympics debut in Rio and was part of the national wheelchair team, which finished fifth in the team competitions. Furthermore, he was a key member of the team that won the European Wheelchair Championships in 2015 and 2017.

He was also a key member of the team which won the European Wheelchair Championships in 2015 and 2017. Bhuta said the win felt “amazing”, especially after “all the adversity the team has had since the Rio Paralympics after losing funding then training under the Coronavirus pandemic. It feels great to be part of a team that has created history. We became the first-ever GB and European team to win a medal on the Paralympic stage.”

Bhuta paid tribute to “the Japanese people” who, he said, were “embedded in their culture of respect, and you could see that day in day out, they were always smiling and bowing in respect and so helpful too.”

He also paid homage to his Japanese competitors. “After we beat Japan in the semi-final, the Japanese players came into our dressing room to congratulate us on reaching the final even though they would have been distraught not being in the final, they still had class to congratulate us, which just shows how great their culture is,” said Bhuta.

 

List of Muslim Medallists at Paralympic Tokyo 2020 Games:

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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