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Moroccan athletes shine in Paralympics

By Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in Casablanca – 11/09/12

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The 14th Summer Paralympic Games drew to a close on Sunday (September 10th) with fresh hopes for Moroccan athletes.

In contrast to the London Olympics, the thirty-two Moroccan participants did not disappoint, sports observers say. They took home a total of six awards, including three gold medals. The delegation ranked 37th.

"I think the important thing to take away from this is that the Paralympic games have become a competition equal in value to the Olympic Games," explained sports analyst and journalist Abderrafiâ Essallem.

Despite the modest resources available to Moroccan Paralympians, they achieved their main objective through fair play, rigour and waving the flag for their country, he added.

Najat El Garaa was the brightest star. She won gold in the discus and bronze in the shot-put. Abdelilah Mame on Saturday earned the bronze medal in the 800m (T13). Mame, 36, recorded his personal best time of one minute 53.40 seconds, behind Algerian Abdellatif Baka (1:53.01) and Kenyan David Korir (1:53.16).

Amine Chentouf (T12-5000m) and Azeddine Nouiri (shot putt – F34) took two gold medals. The two athletes reaped the fruits of their rigorous preparation for the Games.

"I had to make a quick get-away and keep up an even pace, without letting up," Chentouf told reporters. "I knew my opponents. I knew, for example, that by running that way I had more chance of winning. I'm over the moon."

The achievements by Moroccan Paralympians come against a backdrop of on-going disappointment in national sport.

Many members of the public feel the young athletes have put the country back on course and taught all other sportsmen and women a lesson about rigour and self-sacrifice.

"I had tears in my eyes when I watched Najat El Garaa singing our national anthem so emotionally," said Khadija, a housewife.

Ba Sattouf, a parking attendant, said that the officials from sports federations needed to give a higher priority to athletes' training and to grant them support.

Youth and Sports Minister Mohamed Ouzzine said at a September 6th press conference in Rabat that his department is working to restructure national sport.

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    msila28 2012-9-11

    It is weird that you only speak of Moroccan athletes, who came in 37th place with three gold medals and three bronze medal for a total of six when Tunisia came in 14th place with nine gold, five silver and five bronze for a total of 18 medals and Algeria came in 26th place with four gold, six silver and nine bronze for a total of 19 medals. I thought that "Magharebia" was for the entire Arab Maghreb, but in the end it is just for Morocco. I am quite disappointed.