Iraq’s Ali dreams of topping Tokyo 2020 podium
Ammar Ali will compete at the 2018 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Kyoto, Japan, from 13-16 December.
By Asian Paralympic Committee
Iraq’s first Paralympic medallist Ammar Ali will compete at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport (IWAS) World Cup in Kyoto, Japan, from 13-16 December with renewed confidence.
At the last World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia, Ali beat world No.1 and world champion Dmitri Coutya to gold with a strong 15-10 win in the men’s epee category B. He also moved to third place in the world rankings – the only Asian in the top 10.
That placed him in a strong position to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“I am obviously very happy to win a gold and that too in the first qualification tournament for Tokyo 2020,” Ali said. “The competition was good and it’s a special medal as this is my first gold this season. Now I will prepare for the World Cup in Kyoto, Japan. A decent performance at Kyoto will put me in good stead for the Tokyo Paralympics.”
His performance in Tbilisi followed a silver medal at the Asian Para Games, which also doubled as the Asian Championships, in Jakarta, Indonesia, in October.
“All these moments bring me joy, peace and happiness,” Ali said. “It also makes me feel proud and thankful to God for this life. But I know this cannot change everything.”
Ali vaguely remembers the day in March 2007 when his life changed forever. Caught up in a bomb blast near his home in Baghdad, his spinal cord was damaged resulting in paralysis in both of his legs.
He said that life is now more challenging, especially in his home town. But he is trying to find happiness and peace through his achievements in wheelchair fencing.
“Problems still persist in Baghdad,” Ali said. “There’s bomb-blasts happening and one is not always safe. But I have always stayed here and this is my home. So, it’s okay for me. Life is difficult for one in a wheelchair here but I am managing things and trying to live a normal life. Thankfully, I can get some peaceful moments through fencing.”
Ali has also been able to continue with his job as a carpenter, with some minor adjustments.
He said he had never played any sport before taking up fencing. His involvement happened “by chance” while he was recovering from the injury back in 2008.
“It was on recommendation that I tried it out,” the 33-year-old said. “When I was doing my physiotherapy in Baghdad, some of the members of Al-Thura Sport Club came to us and told us there were games for the disabled. They chose me because I have good physical characteristics for this game like long arms. I also liked it at first instance.”
He now includes training into his daily routine at a centre in Baghdad where he hones his skills for between 3-6 hours every day.
Just four years after he took up the sport for the first time, Ali made his Paralympic debut at London 2012 where he placed sixth in the epee.
It was not long before he made a mark at the 2013 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Championships and 2014 Asia Championships taking the silver and bronze medals, respectively. A year later, he became the world champion.
Ali went on to claim the top position at the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing Asian Championships to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Five months later, he created history winning Iraq’s first ever Paralympic medal at Rio 2016.
“That was the most memorable moment of my career, the silver medal,” Ali said. “It is every player’s dream and I got it after overcoming a lot of pain and challenges. So, it’s special. Now my dream is to go out to Tokyo and get a gold medal.”
The 2018 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup will be the last competition of the year and the second where athletes can secure ranking points towards qualification for Tokyo 2020.
Further World Cups will take place in Sharjah, UAE; Pisa, Italy; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Warsaw, Poland, between February and July 2019.
The 2019 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Championships will take place in Cheongju, South Korea, from 24-30 September.