Independent Paralympic Athletes (IPA) team member Ibrahim Al-Hussein and American athlete Tatyana McFadden have today been named as the recipients of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award here at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The pair were selected as the athletes who best exemplify the spirit of the Paralympic Games and the Paralympic values.
Tatyana McFadden in 2014 Boston Marathon (which she won), near halfway point in Wellesley. Photo By Gr5 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Syrian swimmer Al-Hussein held off competition from Peruvian sprinter Jose Luis Casas and Iraqi wheelchair fencer Ammar Hadi Ali to win the men’s award.
Paralympic superstar McFadden, meanwhile, beat Brazilian sprinter Veronica Silva Hipolito and Kazakh swimmer Zulfiya Gabidullina to the women’s prize.
The winners were chosen today by an independent panel of judges comprising of International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Governing Board members.
Each will receive a pure gold medal, weighing 75 grams, at the Closing Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Sunday (September 18).
Born and raised in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, Al-Hussein began swimming at the age of five.
In 2012, he was trying to help a friend who had been injured during a bombing attack in Syria, when he was hit by the blast of another bomb.
Al-Hussein had to have his right leg amputated below the knee as a consequence of the blast.
Proper medical treatment was not available, however, and he went without painkillers for up to two months.
Al-Hussein eventually fled to Turkey and then to Greece, where he was able to start his rehabilitation after crossing the Aegean Sea on a rubber boat.
His friends there encouraged and supported him to pursue sports and to participate in the Paralympic Games.
He has competed here in Rio in both the men’s 100 metres freestyle and men’s 50m freestyle events having served as the IPA team’s flagbearer during last week’s Opening Ceremony at the Maracanã Stadium.
McFadden was born in Russian city St. Petersburg, where she was abandoned at an orphanage.
At birth, she was diagnosed with spina bifida, which left her paralysed from the waist down.
She eventually moved to the United States at the age of six when Deborah McFadden, who was the commissioner for the US Department of Health and Human Services at that time, adopted her.
McFadden made her Paralympic Games debut at Athens 2004, ranking second in the women’s 100m T54, third in the women’s 200m T54, and fifth in the women’s 400m T54.
Eight years later she claimed her first three gold medals at London, and then went on to win every event from the women’s 100m to the women’s 5,000m at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships.
Additionally, she is the first-ever athlete to win the New York, Chicago, Boston, and London Marathons, and has done so for three consecutive years.
Here at Rio 2016, she has won gold medals in the women’s 400m T54 and women’s 1,500m T54 and is aiming for six in total.
The Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award started at the Seoul 1988 Paralympics and has been presented at every edition of the Games since.
The mission of the accolade is to enhance the will of people with impairments to overcome their adversities through the pursuit of excellence in sports and through the Paralympic Games.
At Rio 2016, 17 participating countries nominated 21 athletes for the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award.
By Daniel Etchells
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz