Lebanon’s participation at the Paralympic Games has had its share of challenges. Between 2000 Sydney, where they made their debut, and Tokyo, they have missed two Games, Athens 2004 and the last Games in Rio.
The West Asian nation that has battled economic crisis and political turmoil, was most successful at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, their second appearance. With a single competitor Edward Maalouf, they went on to win two bronze in cycling events; a significant achievement to say the least.
After failing to field a team at Rio Games, Lebanon will be making a comeback with another lone athlete in Arz Zahreddine, who will compete in T64 class in Para athletics. The one-man army is confident, they would return with laurels in the one sport they have entered in.
“We couldn’t do what we had planned to do due to the economic situation in Lebanon and the COVID-19 pandemic. But we have managed to prepare our athlete Arz Zahreddine in the best way we can. The good thing is he is high in confidence and hopefully, we will get a medal,” said Chef de Mission for Lebanon Ahmed Hazer.
“Arz is a committed athlete and well prepared under the pressure of the pandemic which the world is facing. Hopefully, Lebanon will come out with a good performance and make it to the podium.”
Lebanon NPC President Randa Assi Berri seconded the CDM’s views and was hopeful that Zahreddine would fetch the nation a medal.
“We expect one medal this time. In Rio 2016, Lebanon did not participate at the Paralympic Games. The medal in Tokyo will inspire many Para athletes in the country. We are banking on Zahreddine to deliver.”
‘TARGET PERSONAL BEST AND MEDAL’
For Zahreddine, who began his Para athletics career only in 2019, qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Games was definitely a “dream come true”.
Zahreddine too hoped that he could live up to the expectations of the NPC and his country. He revealed he has trained diligently and at Tokyo, it would be all about executing it to the tee.
“I believe that I have done all that I could do against all odds due to the restrictions amid the COVID-19 lockdown. I feel very confident about my participation at Tokyo and hopefully my hard work and dedication will be awarded with a new personal best record and a medal,” said Zahreddine.
At his debut tournament — Grosseto 2019 Grand Prix in Italy — Zahreddine claimed two medals including the gold in 200m T64 event. He made the cut for the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships with this performance, where he finished eighth.