Rio de Janeiro has been pretty momentous for the UAE.
First judoka Sergiu Toma bagged the country’s first Olympic medal in 12 years at the August Games, and now Mohammed Khamis Khalaf has scored our second-ever gold medal at the Paralympics.
The 46-year-old took out the top podium on Tuesday in the men’s under-88kg powerlifting category.
It’s the Emirati’s fifth successive Games, and he bench pressed an impressive 220kg to land gold – 10kg more than his nearest rival, Brazil’s aptly named Evanio da Silva.
Sodnompiljee Enkhbayar from Mongolia also lifted 210kg and was awarded third place.
The UAE, which first started competing in the Paralympics in 1992, now has 10 medals in its trophy cabinet – two golds, five silvers and three bronzes.
Khalaf, who lost the use of his legs after being struck by polio as a child, is also responsible for the UAE’s other Paralympic gold, which he landed in powerlifting at the 2004 Athens Games.
Powerlifter Mohammed Khalaf takes Gold at Rio! The pride of the UAE, his determination and spirit inspires us all pic.twitter.com/7rnbtcrWcZ
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) September 13, 2016
The Qatar-born strongman was congratulated by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, after his big win.
“His gold medal win in weightlifting is a message to all our athletes that the only real disability is weak determination and willpower,” the royal tweeted in Arabic.
Khalaf now holds a hat trick of medals, after scoring silver in Beijing in 2008 in the under-90kg category, where he competed while battling an elbow injury.
“I cannot express my feelings for winning another gold,” Khalaf told The National after his success in Rio. “This medal feels more special than Athens because in Rio I have been struggling a little with injury. I had put all my power into these Games and, thanks to God, I won.
“For me, my age is not important; it is the experience that makes the difference — plus, after this victory, I feel younger than ever.”