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15 very special medals
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 13 - 09 - 2012

Egypt bid farewell to the 2012 London Paralympic Games following a decent performance, reports Abeer Anwar
Egypt Paralympians were warmly welcomed at Cairo Airport on Monday when they were bedecked with flowers and smothered with kisses, returning victorious from the 2012 London Paralympics with 15 medals: four gold, four silver and seven bronze.
Egypt came in a respectable 28th place out of 158 countries. All the gold came from powerlifting. Mohamed Al-Deeb added the fourth and last gold medal for Egypt setting another new world record in the men's -100kg event on the final day of the Games. The 33-year-old produced a record lift of 249kg to finish ahead of defending champion Qi Dong (242kg) of China, who failed with his final attempt at a world record 250kg. Iran's Ali Sadeghzadehsalmani finished with the bronze medal for his second lift of 235kg.
Al-Deeb was thrilled to finally win a gold. "I feel great. I feel on top of the world. I'm so happy and I give thanks to God, my family and the team. I thank God I have gold. I feel happy. I've been fighting for gold for years. It's my first participation in the Paralympics and I will work hard to keep the record."
Heba Ahmed snatched the silver in the women's +82.50kg category after losing the gold to Nigeria's Grace Anozie, the 35-year-old who lifted 162kg with her second attempt --over 20kg more than Heba Ahmed of Egypt -- to take the title. World champion Perla Barcenas (135kg) of Mexico collected the bronze medal.
Egypt's Hani Abdel-Hadi won the men's -90kg title in a Paralympic record of 241kg. China's Cai Huichao took silver (233kg) and Pavlos Mamalos of Greece (232kg) bronze.
In the +82.50kg men's event, Egypt's world champion Metwali Mathana could only take the bronze, lifting 227kg although he was expected to collect gold as he did in Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Bejing 2008.
But head coach of the Paralympic team Maher Ezzat was not surprised. "All of us know the situation and how it has been in Egypt the past two years. The head of the Egyptian Paralympic Committee was changed a number of times and we participated in just one international event as practice, in the United Arab Emirates."
Ezzat added that he was very satisfied with the Egyptian performance in powerlifting especially since countries like Nigeria and Iran have become huge contenders. "To come in second place in powerlifting after Nigeria is an achievement that should be respected. Those powerlifters are depending on their personal resources and they are exerting their best to bring respect and honour to their countries."
Hossameddin Mustafa, president of the Egyptian Paralympic Committee, said he was "very proud" of Egypt's Paralympians "as they did their utmost and they were up to the challenge.
"When you sit and watch such athletes you feel they are not disabled as the competition is very stiff and countries are doing what is needed for their Paralympians need to win medals.
"The competition is becoming very strong and new countries like China, Iran and Nigeria are working hard on their Paralympians. I thank all my athletes and all the people that backed the team all through their journey, sponsors, volunteers and fans. I think it's time for the disabled to have the right to live a comfortable life and to be well treated as human beings who have needs that should be considered," said Mustafa, who is also president of the International Sitting Volleyball Federation.
There were reports that the minister of sports will increase the bonuses of the Paralympians by 25 per cent. That would translate to LE100,000 for a gold medal, LE75,000 for silver and LE50,000 for bronze.
But the money is not what the Paralympians had been hoping for. Before travelling to London, Paralympian and gold medalist Fatma Omar asked both the Minister of Sports Al-Amri Farouk and President Mohamed Mursi to received the same money their able-bodied teammates get -- LE1 million for gold, LE750,000 for silver and LE500,000 million for bronze.
Called the 'Festival of the Flame', the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games celebrated the exuberance of festivals and the changing of the seasons. British band Coldplay, one of the world's best selling music acts, led the evening's celebrations with a live concert.
The ceremony celebrated the achievements of athletes at the 2012 Paralympic Games, and included a handover from one host city to the next: from London to Rio 2016.
The final day also featured the extinguishing of the Paralympic flame, signalling the end of the Games.
Seb Coe, LOCOG Chair, said: "The Paralympic Games have set new records every day, sporting records, records for crowds, for television audiences, for unbridled spirit. In this country we will never think of sport the same way and we will never think of disability the same way. The Paralympians have lifted the cloud of limitation.
"There are some famous words you can find stamped on the bottom of a product. Words, that when you read them, you know mean high quality, mean skill, mean creativity. We have stamped those words on the Olympic and Paralympic Games of London 2012 --'London 2012. Made in Britain'.
"Being asked to play at the closing celebrations for the Paralympic athletes in London is such a great honour for us," Coldplay's Chris Martin said. "Kim Gavin and Misty Buckley worked hard to put on a spectacular Paralympic Games closing ceremony for the athletes and spectators in the stadium, and everyone watching around the world, and we are so happy to be involved. It was one of the biggest nights of our lives and we were excited to try to create a performance for the last night of the games that would close London 2012 in style."

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