It all comes down to country pride when it comes to the Olympic hype. This however isn’t the case for Kuwait,which has been suspended to compete in the summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the second time in five years. This was due to the alleged governmental interference. Not marching under the Kuwaiti flag in Rio would be a little bittersweet for these athletes of Kuwaiti nationals. The ban on Kuwait to compete as a nation however brings no blockage to several athletes: Faye sultan, Fehaid Aldeehani, Khaled Al Mudhaf, Abdullah Al- Rashidi, Abbas Qali, Saud Habib, Abdulaziz Al Shatti, Abdulrahman Al Faihan, and Ahmad Alafasi. These nine Kuwaiti athletes will be competing individually as the independent Olympic athletes. The independent Olympic athletes are a category given to athletes that do not follow the vast majority of athletes who have affiliation to a certain country or national flag.
Faye Husain Sultan
This wouldn’t be the first time for a 21-year-old to compete at the Olympics. Sultan first competed in 2012 as Kuwaiti’s first female swimmer, in the 50 meter freestyle at the London Olympics in 2012. Enrolled at William’s College, Sultan also competes for her college’s swimming and diving team, William Ephs. Sultan is an athlete who holds pride for both Kuwaitis and women at the Olympics.
“I am going to be wearing the blue (Olympic) uniform. I’m going to be part of a team that is just not from the same country from which I am, which is still an honor. I’m still very happy to be able to go, but it’s obviously very disheartening. You work so hard to represent your country. It’s definitely a blow to not be able to walk under the Kuwaiti flag,” Faye Sultan admits.
Legendary winner of the two bronze medals and the only medals ever won by Kuwait, from the men’s double trap shooting event at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and the trap shooting event at the London Olympics in 2012. 49-year-old Aldeehani returns to compete at Rio 2016 under the independent Olympics athlete team. Scheduled to compete at the men’s double trap event on Wednesday August 10, Aldeehani is one of the six Kuwaiti shooters to compete at the summer Olympics 2016. Although he’s very disappointed to not be able to carry the Kuwaiti flag, Aldeehani still tried to defend the pride of his country.
“I am a military man, and I will only carry the Kuwaiti flag, I cannot carry the IOC flag,” Fahaid Aldeehani said.
38-year-old Al-Mudhaf, is one of the six Kuwaiti sport shooters competing independently under the IOC flag. Al-Mudhaf held the men’s trap title at the 48th International Shooting Sport Federation competition (ISSF) in Finland 2002. After competing at the ISSF shotgun championships held in Lonato, Italy in 2015, Al-Mudhaf has been qualified to join the independent athlete team in Brazil 2016.
“For two years I have done nothing but practice just so that I can accomplish this goal,” Al-Mudhaf said.
Al-Rashidi is the winner of the last medal match of the 2014 International Sport Shooting Federation in Beijing, China. After pocketing eight gold cup medals at the age of 50, Al-Rashidi is unstoppable. After competing in the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics, Al-Rashidi returns to the Olympics 2016 in Rio with determination and positive energy.
“But, this is just the beginning. I am looking forward to Rio, with my son beside me,“ Al-Rashid said.
Throughout his career as a junior Kuwaiti swimmer, he claims to always look proud when waving the Kuwaiti flag. During his bachelor year at the university of Alabama, he worked hard and enrolled himself in a great swimming program. As a result, 23-year-old Abbas Qali’s long life dream of joining the Olympics finally became a reality. Qali believes that representing one’s nation is the biggest achievement for an athlete. Qali is eager to represent his country of origin (Kuwait), yet he has no control over his country’s suspension by the IOC. Thus, he set a new goal for the Olympics: to set a new personal best time and to be the first Kuwaiti in history to break the 45-second barrier.
“I hope the Kuwaiti Government and officials will resolve the issue as soon as possible so that my fellow Kuwaiti athletes and I can raise the Kuwaiti flag in Rio, a feeling indescribable. It gives me the chills,”Qali said.
Another of Kuwait’s many shooting sports legend is the 37-year-old Saud Habib. He represented his nation at the Olympic Games of 2000 and also holds the bronze medal in the men’s skeet shooting at the 2000 Intenatonal Sport Shooting Federation competition in New Delhi, India. He is also a member of the Kuwait City shooting club, training full-time under coach Petr Malek, a Czech born 2000 Olympic silver medalist. Though he has no choice but to compete under the IOC flag. Habib revealed that in his opinion, competing without a flag would be meaningless: “What good is participating without a flag? I won’t matter, even if I participate and take the first place. If the flag is not raised and the anthem is not played, it is meaningless.”
Amongst the many Kuwaiti national athletes who felt a slight disappointment regarding Kuwait’s ban to join the Olympics is fencer AbdulAziz Al-Shatti. Al-Shatti experiences a mixed feeling of excitement and sadness due to his achievement of making it through the Summer Olympics, yet not being able to stand proudly for his nation.
“I cannot explain my feelings to be in the Olympic village with world champions and take part in the biggest competition in the history of sports. It’s amazing. I am so proud to be a Kuwaiti sportsman in 2016’s Olympic Games. It’s an honour. However, I am really sad that I’m not competing under my country’s name, under the flag we fought for. But thank God for everything,” he said.