With the Summer Paralympic Games a little over a year away, Emirati cyclist, Abdullah Salem al Blooshi, will be one among the hundreds of athletes from around the world, training in earnest to make it to their national teams.
Abdullah, who was just 12 when he began cycling at the Al Ahli Club in 2004, won his first team medal a year later. Two years later, he was representing the UAE in the national team.
His meteoric rise to success continued with an international achievement, a bronze medal in the team time trial at the 2009 Arabian Championship. He also became the first Emirati in the peloton in the Asian Championship held in the UAE the same year.
Moving into the elite category in 2010, he seemed on course for stardom in the cycling world.
However, two years later, at the age of 20, Abdullah suffered a devastating injury during training.
Colliding with a road sign at high speed, his right arm sustained damage that proved to be a life-altering experience. Over the next few years, he underwent over 30 surgeries in the UAE and with specialists in Germany but could not regain the use of his right arm.
For many, such an injury would discourage them from continuing with the sport they loved, or put an end to dreams of international achievement. Not for Abdullah.
At first, it was just for the love of the sport. But soon after, encouraged by his friend and now coach, Mohammed Al Murawwi Abdullah, he entered the racing arena again. His first race was the Nad al Sheba race in the determination category, where he took home the winner’s title.
Since then, Abdullah has raced in Paralympic competitions all over the world and is part of the UAE Paralympic national team. Personal trainer, Joe Watters, who has seen first-hand Abdullah’s determination, was inspired by his story. He said, "Not many people could come back from an injury so severe; it is a challenge mentally, as much as physically. Abdullah has not let it stop him from training hard and believing in himself, and it has shown in his achievements since the accident. Hopefully, this will inspire others and show people that if you have the motivation, you can triumph over adversity."
Abdullah’s most recent achievement came in the form of a bronze medal at the Asian Championship in Uzbekistan in April, with many more races to come as he makes his way towards the Paralympic Games in August 2020.