The start of something new in Africa took place in Tunis, Tunisia, as the first shooting Para sport competition and development course were held in the region in mid-November.
Twenty athletes from four National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) took part in the Tunis 2018 Shooting Para Sport Open International Competition, and it was an opportunity for course attendees to put their knowledge to practice after an enlightening four days prior.
“We hope that this event is just the start of launching shooting Para sport in Tunisia and in Africa,” said Salah Riahi, a course participant and member of NPC Tunisia.
NPC Tunisia, with the support of World Shooting Para Sport (WSPS) and the Agitos Foundation, organised a coaching development course conducted by three educators Miro Sipek, an experienced coach with WSPS; and Goran Maksimovic and Marko Sokis who are International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) certified educators.
Twenty-one trainees from Libya and Tunisia participated in two-part sessions. The first was a theoretical session about shooting Para sport rules, classification, and coaching techniques. The other was a practical part with four athletes of the Tunisian Club that included basic drills.
“We learned many things from this first edition, and for sure, it will be beneficial for the popularisation of shooting Para sport in Tunisia and African region,” Riahi said.
“In this sense, one of the most important targets of this tournament is to ensure a visibility for this new sport. That is why we invited the media to cover the event. We also invited local associations which care about people with a physical impairment. Additionally, we invited the secretary of state for sports to assist with the final and the medal ceremony.”
The Open International Competition followed from 19-23 November that saw 20 athletes from Kenya, Libya, Tunisia and Uganda compete in the historic event. For three of these countries, it was their first exposure to shooting Para sport.
Lieutenant Bassem Ben Hadj Yahia was among the athletes. Yahia lost his left leg during a terrorist act in Tunisia in 2013.
“I dream of bearing the flag of my country at the next Paralympic Games. I also dream of bearing the white flag as symbol of humanity and peace,” Yahia said.
“This way, I would give a lot of hope and say that despite the difficult times we’re living in, the world has not reached the end. Humanity has always succeeded in overcoming epidemics, wars and famines. Today, it will defeat terrorism.
“I fought terrorism in the heart of the mountains with weapons. Today, I fight terrorism with sport.”
Tyler Anderson, World Shooting Para Sport Manager, said:
“Over the past two weeks, we witnessed enthusiasm and passion from the African region to take up shooting Para sport. When the course participants and athletes were given the opportunity to practice the sport, they were eager to build off what they had learned.
“Thirteen athletes successfully underwent classification, which means after this one classification we have more athletes in Africa than ever before. This is not a one-and-done event, but rather the beginning of more to come.
“We plan to host more shooting Para sport competitions in Tunisia and thank NPC Tunisia, its president Mohamed Mzoughi, the Agitos Foundation, and all those that made this historic event possible.”