The UAE shooting team ended its Paralympic competition in Rio with three medals – all of them won by the same shooter. Will Jones reports on record-setting rifleman Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani
Coming into the Paralympic Games in Rio, Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani was arguably the UAE’s best hope for a medal. Having triumphed at London four years ago in the mixed 50m rifle prone category, the only Emirati gold of the Games, the rifleman arrived in Rio with high hopes in four shooting events. He didn’t add another gold to his collection, but he did the next best thing – and three times in one week.
Al Aryani’s Games began last Thursday, the first day of Paralympic competition, with the men’s 10m air rifle standing (R1) competition. After breezing through the qualification rounds, he was edged out for gold by China’s Dong Chao, who successfully defended the title he won in London four years ago. Still, the Emirati professed himself happy with silver, knowing he had three events to come.
Four days later, following a 17th-place finish in the mixed 10m air rifle prone (R3) event, Al Aryani joined many of the same competitors in the final of the men’s 50m rifle three positions (R7) – and, once again, he ended up battling for a podium place.
This time, the gold went to Laslo Suranji of Serbia, while R1 winner Dong Chao ended down in sixth – but for Al Aryani, another sterling performance brought him a second silver of the Games.
On Wednesday, as the rifle competitions drew to a close, Al Aryani had one final chance to top the podium in the mixed 50m rifle prone (R6), the event in which he won gold in 2012.
After finishing a strong second in qualification behind Britain’s Matt Skelhon, who won R6 bronze four years ago, Al Aryani shot brilliantly in the final, but not quite brilliantly enough: China’s Zhang Cuiping won by just 0.3 points, leaving Al Aryani with his third silver of the Games.
There may yet be more to come. After his final event, Al Aryani said that he’s already looking ahead to Tokyo 2020. He’ll be 50 years old by then, but few would bet against the UAE’s most decorated Paralympian adding to his medal collection in four years’ time.