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Qayed leads UAE team at opening ceremony of Tokyo Paralympics

Despite a year-long pandemic delay, the Tokyo Paralympics Games opened on Tuesday with howling guitars and neon-streaked performers, with athletes poised to challenge stereotypes and break records.

The Games were officially opened by Japan’s Emperor Naruhito in front of banks of empty seats at the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium, with virus laws prohibiting spectators from practically all events.

President of the International Paralympic Committee Andrew Parsons praised the competitors as ‘beacons of hope’ who had put ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ into their preparations.

“Many denied that this day would come, many said it was impossible, yet the most transformative sports event on Earth is about to begin,” said Parsons.

The pared-down ceremony took place in front of around 800 VIPs and officials, but there was a celebratory mood as 162 teams enjoyed their long-awaited moment in the global spotlight.

Mohammed Al Qayed was given the honour of carrying and raising the UAE flag at the opening ceremony by the UAE Paralympic Committee in recognition of his numerous achievements throughout several editions of the Paralympic Games.

Qayed won a silver and a bronze at the 2012 Games in London and the 800m gold at the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Multiple Paralympic medal winners, weightlifter Mohamed Hamis Khalaf and wheelchair player Mohamed Al Hamadi, and London Paralympic shooting gold medalist Abdullah Sultan Al Aliani are the top medal hopes for the UAE.

The UAE has selected a 12-member squad to represent the country at the Paralympic Games.

The contingent will compete in five disciplines including athletics, shooting, powerlifting, wheelchair and cycling.

Noura Al Ketbi and Sara Al Senani are the most experienced female members of the squad, bringing home silver and bronze medals in the shot putt events in both F32 and F33 at Rio.

Completing the UAE contingent are Ayesha Al Meheiri, sisters Mozah and Maryam Al Zeyoudi, Ahmed Nawad, Saif Al Nuaimi and Ahmed Mubarak Al Mansoori