Three professional golfers who are set to compete in the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, flew to the emirate this week to take part in the Unified Golf Tournament as the excitement builds ahead of next year’s main event.
Warren Clark (GB), Tom Lugg (South Africa), and Munyaradzi Musariri (Zimbabwe) participated in the Unified Golf Tournament alongside two leading UAE Pro golfers Saif Thabet and Ahmed Musharrekh along with Abu Dhabi Sports Council sponsors. The Unified Golf Tournament provided the perfect opportunity for the competitors to test the Yas Links venue ahead of the World Games. The tournament was followed by a golf clinic for non-golfers and local football athletes with intellectual disabilities.
The athletes also attended a workshop with Local Organising Committee members from Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 and sponsors of what is set to be the most unified Special Olympics competition in history and the largest single event ever held in the UAE featuring 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports in 10 venues across Abu Dhabi. The workshop provided knowledge on the importance of the Games for people with intellectual disability and discussed plans that will best serve athletes, to have an excellent experience during the Games.
Abdulla Al Wahibi, Director of Sports at Abu Dhabi 2019 said: “The golfers are some of the most talented and most charismatic athletes. They truly embody the Special Olympics spirit and the values of the UAE; determination, inclusion and kindness. We are humbled to have them as ambassadors and look forward to welcoming them back next March for the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.
“We are committed to moving perceptions of people with intellectual disabilities to be respected, equal and integrated members of the community. The World Games will act as a catalyst for this societal shift, which will be supported by a lot of similar initiatives as Abu Dhabi prepares for the World Games.”
Warren Clark, a 17-year old participant who has autism, speech difficulties and learning disabilities, was chosen as an ambassador for the Games due to his ongoing commitment to the sport of golf and his unwavering determination in the face of adversity.
Warren commented: “I really enjoyed the workshop and it was great to meet some of the other golfers. I have been passionate about playing golf for over five years, I love how the sport is inclusive for everyone of any age, race, and ability I can’t believe that I have made it to Abu Dhabi and I can’t wait to come back here for the World Games.”
This was the second time Munyaradzi Musariri, the 23-year-old Special Olympics athlete, had visited Abu Dhabi to play golf after he had competed in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Pro-Am which took place in January alongside Pablo Larrazabal.
“I am happy to come back to the UAE. The course was beautiful, and the local people were so kind to us,” said Musariri. “We met lots of the organisers and they all told me about the amazing support being given to people with determination here, so I am so proud to be here and very excited to participate in the World Games.”
The 27-year-old SA Special Olympics golfer Tom Lugg, who has won three gold medals, is still the only South African golfer to have represented his country. He is currently enrolled on a partial bursary at the Gary Player School for Champions, where he practices alongside South African star, Haydn Porteous.
Tom said: “I feel privileged to be an Ambassador and want to use my experiences in Abu Dhabi to start getting the rest of Team SA – and people all over the country – excited about next year’s World Games. I know they will be game-changing and I want to come away from them with another gold medal for my country”.
The Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 is a part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 that highlights the full integration of people of determination into everyday society. The Games will be the most ‘unified’ in history and promises to offer an inclusive experience for those with and without intellectual disabilities.